A recent study has found that treating the families of veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder for the psychological stress that comes with living with a vet with PTSD increases the success rate of treatment for the Veteran as well.
A young charity, Military with PTSD, has already been addressing the problems caregivers are facing for the past two years and has taken a unique approach to spreading awareness..
One of the major complaints from caregivers is that they have no one to turn to and no real help. They become exhausted and display symptoms of Secondary Trauma Stress, or Secondary PTSD. The new study put forth from the University of Syracuse's Institute for Veterans and Military Families suggests that treating the family members for their STS will make the living environment better for veterans and increase the chances of success in treatment.
From the study abstract:
Research has identified PTSD as mediating the effect of veterans’ combat experience on the family. Veterans’ numbing/arousal symptoms are especially predictive of family distress; while, to a lesser extent, veterans’ anger is also associated with troubled family relationships and secondary traumatization among family members. Empirical modeling of additional factors involved in secondary traumatization is needed. Marital/family interventions have largely focused on improving relationships and reducing veterans’ symptoms, rather than targeting improvements in the psychological well-being of the spouse and children. Interventions directly addressing the needs of significant others, especially spouses, are advocated. The potential for increased effectiveness of PTSD interventions and possible cost-savings attained by improving relationships and reducing caregiver burden are also discussed.
A military spouse recognized the need for families to be involved in care, and supported during this time. Shawn Gourley, founder of Military with PTSD, began the process of supporting caregivers and veterans through education two years ago after dealing with her own battle with her husband's PTSD. Shawn's method of helping families has been so wonderful that major institutions look to her for new ideas and to pave the way in the wilderness of PTSD treatment.
The common sense of a caring and intuitive military spouse prompted a way of looking at the PTSD problem that was not tried before. Shawn's method combines support for spouses and veterans in one community where PTSD veterans and caregivers can learn from one another and make their households less stressful and more productive. On the support group page you can find veterans and caregivers in many different stages of progression with treatment and understanding.
One of the first things Shawn teaches to caregivers is that their veteran has changed probably forever. So they must accept that they are now looking at a whole new person who is in a lot of pain. This helps caregivers understand that they will have to learn a whole new way of looking at life and communicating with their veteran.
Caregivers are often frustrated by the lack of emotional connection demonstrated by their veteran and often feel the brunt of the emotional turmoil displayed by their vet with PTSD. Many arguments stem from caregivers attempting to connect in an aggressive manner by making their vet feel guilty, responsible, or damned for their actions. In an interview Shawn taught a little bit of what is going on in the mind of the veteran.
Shawn indicates that the veteran acts like this because they are in a way broken. They have so much pain both mentally and physically that they cannot see past their own pain to see what they are doing to everyone else. The key to being able to help your veteran is learning new communication techniques and when to push and when to back off. Shawn learned this lesson the hard way before there were any resources for caregivers, her lessons are detailed in her book "The War at Home" available on Amazon.
Spouses who are confused on how to respond to their veteran can get on the Military with PTSD Facebook page and find other spouses and veterans who are willing to help them sort out the situation. The community is filled with people ready and willing to get on the phone or hop in a car and come to the aid of veteran or spouse in a time of trauma. But with 14,000 members on the page the small group of people there who are able to respond sometimes is not enough. To address this problem Shawn has begun to set up a hotline that will connect spouses with other spouses who have "been there done that" for support. The caregivers will be certified suicide gatekeepers and will be able to call emergency public officials if the need arises.
While research studies are being conducted to determine the best way to help veterans with PTSD and their families, and the military and VA struggle and point fingers and lay blame; Shawn Gourley and Military with PTSD are already working on and succeeding in saving families and marriages through education and understanding of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.