An Investigation Into the Mental Health and Substance Abuse Among Veterans

Topics: Posttraumatic stress disorder, Military personnel, United States Department of Veterans Affairs Pages: 6 (2092 words) Published: February 25, 2013
There are numerous issues facing American veterans returning home from war, both past and present. They are taught how to transform themselves into different people who are better adept at performing under severe war-zone stressors. They are prepared physically and sometimes mentally for what they will be entering into on foreign territory but not often enough for the challenge of re-entering civilian life. Soldiers are falling through the cracks in our system upon returning home, shown through an increase in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance abuse among veterans. Two theories that I will be exploring in this paper are Conflict Theory and Phenomenology Theory. There is more conflict everyday over what our troops should be doing and why. Any doubt of following the path to become a soldier is critiqued as going against the protection of our country, yet once they come out the other end of this journey the supported soldier is gone and in its place is either the glorified hero or sympathized victim. The phenomena of PTSD can create confusion for everyone involved. There is rarely a great understanding of a soldier’s mind and how it interprets their experiences into reactions after war. These experiences have a real effect on their lives and how they care and handle themselves after war. The way society has constructed what a soldier should represent does not include asking for help and makes them appear weak when if they show vulnerability. This issue is important because even today with easier access to treatment, many veterans today won’t or can’t seek out help. To many it is easier to turn to substance abuse to self-medicate and erase confusion from past experiences.

Book Examination
In the book Fields of Combat, stories are told of how soldiers are trained to kill and understand that to be a true soldier you must accept you own death. Author Erin Finley describes what it is like for soldiers who came home and developed PTSD, and puts their experiences into a social and cultural perspective. She paints a portrait of PTSD to reveal to readers that there is no comprehensive way to understand or experience it. “As an anthropologist, I find the web of tangled arguments over PTSD fascinating because these conflicts are in many ways about the nature of war-related suffering itself” (Finley, 2011). She describes how to understand PTSD, we must listen to the experience and concerns of the veterans before we can begin to help them. Theory Exploration

The Conflict Theory can be applied to many aspects of a veteran’s life, the individual, their families, communities, and organizations around them. These troops return home without knowing how to integrate back into society. The families who should be overjoyed about the safe return of one of their members are displaced without having proper resources to help their loved ones mental health. They are not given the same stress and trauma training the soldiers is given, nor do they know of the experiences causing change in the soldier. There is not often enough knowledge available to the family of what it will be like for the family to have a soldier return home and can be caught off guard by what the soldier will experience upon return. Communities are affected by having one of their members experiencing side effects of war form attempting to re-enter the work force to social events and even the death of such troops of veterans. There is much debate about how war is handled in the United States. It is generally agreed upon that protection of American citizens is of importance, but from there on out there is little agreement among groups. When thinking about this debate I cannot help but recall driving up to an intersection in my hometown and seeing picketers on either side of the street. Pro-war protesters held signs on one hand that said “FREEDOM IS NOT FREE” while anti-war protesters fought back with signs that reminded drivers of the...
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