As time goes on it seems that more and more, our nation becomes increasingly divided between Republicans and Democrats, Tea Partiers and Beltway Insiders, religious vs. atheist, and so on. Debates about the economy, to global warming, to energy, towards revolution and war throughout the Middle East are taking place, but if it’s one area we should all be able to agree upon, it’s supporting our U.S. troops. The best way of providing support may not always be clear, but if there is one area where focus can definitively be directed, it’s on the wellbeing of anyone whose health has suffered while protecting and serving our country.
Every year, thousands of soldiers return home from combat with injuries commonly referred to as “Invisible wounds.”
Afflictions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury (TBI), and mesothelioma are considered to be invisible because they may be difficult to recognize, and even diagnose these ailments. In my opinion, it’s also fair to refer to these conditions in this way due to the surprisingly little attention they receive.
Though similar in nature, each has its own very distinct qualities:
- PTSD is an anxiety disorder triggered by an exposure to traumatic events. Any soldier serving on the front lines during war time is at huge risk of acquiring combat PTSD. Symptoms include feeling numb, hyper arousal, overwhelming nightmares or night terrors, and severe, abrupt mood swings. Onset of these symptoms can be delayed and therefore even more dangerous because many soldiers may not realize they are afflicted. Treatment of PTSD involves counseling and group therapy.
- TBI is usually associated with soldiers suffering from bruised and fragile brain tissues caused by the shockwaves of detonated bombs. Many TBI victims suffer from severe mental damage. Symptoms of this disorder are headaches, ear ringing, memory loss and partial amnesia, and issues with concentration and basic cognitive functions. Without treatment, TBI can restrict oxygen to the brain and inevitably be fatal. The methods used to treat TBI employ extensive rehabilitation, involving physical, occupational, and speech therapies.
- Mesothelioma is a rare cancer that attacks cells in the tissue lining the body cavity known as the mesothelium. Mesothelioma and asbestos are forever interlinked as asbestos is the only known cause of this disease. This condition is prevalent among many veterans due to its rampant use in nearly every form of military construction, maintenance, and repair until the 1970s.
It’s a tragic affair that our soldiers face these insidious and devastating conditions even long after their service; but if there is one considerable positive about invisible wounds, it’s that these circumstances have raised awareness of the afflictions so that treatment for them is much more readily available.
Taylor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org