A recent article in The Western Front, a publication published by Western Washington University staff and students, explores PTSD-related triggers student Veterans can encounter while on campus and the response to their reactions. Such articles are a wonderful indication of the growing sensitivity by civilian organizations to recognize and prepare for the needs of returning Veterans.
Many of the Veterans I have the privilege to work with are in school or going back into work environments. It is an extremely difficult transition from the military mindset into that of an educational or employment setting. It is hard enough to feel as if they fit in and to add the stress of these expectations can be overwhelming.
For some Veterans, going out into the world or even outside their apartment can be a major event. It can be enough to increase anxiety to excessive levels to be exposed to people who do not have a clue as to how difficult it is to get to class or work on time.
This is why this is a double edged sword, meaning that it takes not only the Warriors to learn to calm and settle but also it is just as important for fellow students, instructors, employers and perspective employees. Awareness about the effect of trauma and how this manifests in the lives of Veterans going to back to school or getting into a new job benefits everyone. It is important for these institutions, which are the beginning to a new future for our Veteran, to build an environment that is safe, welcoming and compassionate to the needs of those who serve our country.
As many of you know by now, post traumatic stress can emerge in a variety of ways, at various times and for a number of reasons. This means not only are our Warriors affected but so are other military personnel or civilians not exposed to combat. They may have been exposed to other types of traumatic events including sexual and physical assaults, accidents or natural disasters. With this being said, it all our responsibility to be aware of how our actions affect others who may be triggered by comments, sounds, smells, or events that bring up the trauma.
Once we start to really talk about post traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, and the overall effects of trauma and ways to normalize these reactions, we can begin developing a sensitivity to these challenges and creating a more comfortable environment for our Veterans.
It is very important that the Veteran services on campus be a starting point to help them navigate the VA healthcare, and benefit system so they can start the process of accessing the VA benefits they are eligible for and be recognized for their service. We cannot allow any Veteran to fall through the cracks.