PTSD Awareness Day is observed every year on June 27. PTSD stands for post-traumatic stress disorder and is a condition that affects many veterans and non-veterans alike. It can occur when someone experiences or witnesses a traumatic event. The condition wasn’t always understood properly by the medical or military community, although there were many attempts to identify its symptoms after World War II, the Vietnam War, and other conflicts.

In 2010, Sen. Kent Conrad of North Dakota pushed to get official recognition of PTSD via a day of awareness in tribute to a National Guard member from his state, staff Sgt. Joe Biel, who took his life in 2007 after two tours in Iraq. He committed suicide after his return home, and his birthday, June 27, was selected as the official awareness day. In 2014, the Senate designated June as National PTSD Awareness Month.

The specific nature of the trauma varies greatly among individuals. It's been estimated that as many as 70% of all Americans have experienced a traumatic event sufficient to cause PTSD or PTSD-like symptoms. Of that number, some 20% will develop PTSD symptoms, roughly 44 million people. And of those, an estimated 8% experience active PTSD symptoms at any one time. An estimated 50% of all mental health patients are also diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Today, PSTD symptoms are recognized by the Department of Veterans Affairs as a service-connected condition. Suicidal thoughts or self-destructive acts are often a result of PTSD or related symptoms, and anyone experiencing such thoughts or urges should seek immediate care. Non-specific symptoms include irritability, depression, and suicidal feelings. More specific problems among  veterans and active duty military members include “hypervigilance” or “hyperarousal.”

Other symptoms include flashbacks, nightmares, and persistent memories or intrusive thoughts about the event(s). Sometimes PTSD sufferers can be high-functioning, other times they may be more debilitated by the condition.

The Suicide Crisis Hotline (1-800-273-8255) has a specific resource for veterans and the VA offers a Veterans’ Crisis Hotline confidential chat resource.

Our veterans need our assistance. We can help by attending a course, Mental Health First Aid for Veterans. The course is aimed at military members, veterans and families and friends of military members or veterans. In Rhode Island, the program is made possible by South-County Bodies/Healthy Minds. The next course will be July 27 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 155 High St., Wakefield.

Course specific information can be obtained from https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/take-a-course/find-a-course/ . The primary instructor on July  27 will be Matthew McCoy, a retired Navy surface warfare officer and Gulf War veteran. He is certified as a mental health first aid for adults instructor. McCoy said that the overall goal of this training is to improve the public’s awareness of mental health illness and to reduce the stigma associated with it.

The course will teach participants how to apply the ALGEE action plan: Assess for risk of suicide or harm. Listen nonjudgmentally. Give reassurance and information. Encourage professional help. Encourage self-help and other support strategies. We each need to do our part to help our veterans in need. Since 2008 over 150,000 individuals have been trained in mental first aid. For additional information www.MentalHealthFirstAid.org/cs/veterans-military/

Amancio-Falcone-Gaccione Post 8955

Project Outreach – This service is available to all veterans and their families who are in need of information regarding the numerous resources/agencies that are available to those who served. Our outreach officer is ready to meet with you the first Wednesday and third Monday of each month from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at the Post Home. Appointments are not needed to meet with the service officer, Walter Kimball; 401-596-0470.

The VFW welcomes as members all who meet our eligibility criteria. It is through service to this country that all our members have earned their elite status. If you have received a campaign medal for overseas service; have served 30 consecutive or 60 non-consecutive days in Korea; or have ever received hostile fire or imminent danger pay, then you're eligible to join our ranks.

New members are welcome to attend our next monthly meeting July 3 at 6:30 p.m. at our Post Home, 113 Beach St., Westerly.  Meetings are the first Wednesday of each month. If you know of a comrade or family of comrade in distress please contact Comrade Dora Vasquez-Hellner, 401-212-6377 for assistance.

The Post and Auxiliary will host their annual picnic at 5 p.m. Aug. 7. All members and their families are encouraged to attend. The menu will include hot dogs and hamburgers with all the trimmings.

R.I. Veterans Legislation

Senate Bill 837:  Provides a petition process to have a discharge from service recorded as honorable for members of the armed services separated from service with a general or other than honorable discharge due solely to their sexual orientation/gender identity/expression. Signed by the governor on June 21.

House Resolution No. 5016: Would extend the reporting and expiration dates of the Special Legislative Commission to Study Veteran and Military Spouse Education & Employment Opportunities to April 30, 2020, and its expiration date to July 30, 2020. Passed by the House in April and the Senate on June 11.

This week in military history: In one of the most sweeping grants of police authority ever written into U.S. law, Congress in 1936 designated the Coast Guard as the federal agency for “enforcement of laws generally on the high seas and navigable waters of the United States.”

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