Addressing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Among Veterans: Learning What Works

An estimated 500,000 veterans serving overseas will return home with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD—a debilitating illness that is often marked with anger, depression, physical pain, disturbed sleep, social isolation, and thoughts of suicide.  In addition to the personal devastation to a soldier’s quality of life, the cost for treating PTSD creates a burden to the nation’s health care system.  A recent study found the lifetime cost of treating PTSD in a single veteran is $1.4 million, with a total cost of caring for all returning veterans with PTSD close to $700 billion.

Many veterans don’t receive treatment at all, because of the stigma around seeking mental health care.  More than 63% of returning veterans say they would not seek the help of mental health professionals as they believe it may affect their military or civilian careers. United States Congressman Tim Ryan, co-chair of the Military Mental Health caucus, declared, “The magnitude of these problems demands we pursue innovative solutions outside the normal processes.”

In response, American Veterans (AMVETS) has created the Freedom & Honor Warrior Transition Workshop (WTW). The WTW is conducted over a two- to five-day period, is confidential, and is structured in a training style familiar to military personnel with a hands-on, peer-to-peer approach that includes a well-crafted blend of military history, legend, and ritual.

AMVETS utilizes AIR’s evaluation expertise to determine whether the WTW should be used alongside existing services to provide alternative routes for members of the U.S. Military (veterans, active duty, Guard, and Reserve) to address post-traumatic stress and reintegration challenges. The evaluation involves measuring how participation in the workshop affects the symptoms of PTSD.