Stigma, the “mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person”. This characterization befits criminals and cohorts alike, not disabled Veterans. Unfortunately, stigmas exist regarding Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PSTD) and disabled Veterans who suffer mental illnesses. Sadly, these unjustified falsehoods discourage Veterans seeking treatment and compensation for their invisible disabilities.
The truth – there is no disgrace, not even one iota, in defending our Country and returning home with PTSD or any other mental illness. The best defense against negative stigma is learning the truth behind mental illness fallacies and responding appropriately. The most prevalent stigmas about PTSD include the cause being character weakness, an increased violence potential and malingering on psychological examinations.
Mental illness afflicts people at all levels within society, even sitting Presidents have suffered from mental illnesses. In fact, a Duke University study revealed forty-nine percent of Presidents suffered mental illnesses including bipolar disorder, depression, PTSD and social phobia. Abraham Lincoln suffered chronic depression and displayed suicidal ideation during periods of emotional distress. Lincoln endured heartless ridicule, but survived with earlier forms of expressive and psychotherapy. Further, an estimated eight percent of Americans who experience trauma will suffer PTSD at some point in their life. Therefore, suffering PTSD has absolutely nothing to do with character strength rather everything to do with experiencing traumatic events.
Another common misconception exists that Veterans who suffer PTSD are unpredictable and violent, which most likely stems from human nature to fear unknown conditions we do not understand. Research conducted at the National Center for PTSD actually reveals no conclusive evidence and minimal correlation between PTSD and increased violence. However, substituting professional treatment with drug or alcohol self-medication and introducing other risk factors such as comorbid mental illnesses certainly increase the propensity for violence among PTSD sufferers.
The most offensive misconception regarding PTSD sufferers is malingering, or exaggerating symptoms, occurs on psychological examinations in order to obtain disability benefits. April 10, 2012, the Department of Army concluded malingering only accounts for less than one percent of PTSD claims, presumably related to the relaxation of standards for psychological examinations found in VA’s Training Letter 10-05. Further, research conducted at the National Institutes of Health indicates over reporting PTSD symptoms during examinations are actually synonymous with “cries for help”.
The truth possesses immense strength and power, and empirical evidence substantiates the majority of Veterans do not prevaricate to obtain PTSD disability benefits. If you suffer from PTSD, or any other mental illness, do not permit stigma or disbelievers to dissuade you from pursuing disability benefits. Respond appropriately, contact an experienced Veterans Attorney and apply for the benefits you earned and deserve.