Recognizing the struggles facing veterans

Published: Nov. 11, 2022 at 7:06 PM EST
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ELKTON, Va. (WHSV) - Communities across the Valley honored veterans on Friday but Veterans Day also brought a reminder of the struggles veterans across the country face on a daily basis. Around 20 veterans die by suicide each day and many struggle daily with PTSD.

On Friday, the town of Elkton held a ceremony to honor its veterans for their service but also highlight the troubling number of veteran suicides across the U.S.

WHSV talked with some veterans and a medical professional about the struggles vets face and how people can help.

“If you see any indications of stress for veterans we need to reach out and help,” said David Anthony, a 30-year U.S. Army Veteran from Elkton. “Yeah especially with the amount of veterans that are committing suicide in this country today it’s astronomical,” added Arnold L. Dean, a Veteran of the 101st Airborne from Elkton.

David Anthony said for friends and family of veterans who may be struggling it’s important to keep an eye on their stress levels and be supportive.

“I think the best way to help is to be very receptive to any indicator that they’re under stress and to offer to help them and get them to help the best you can. There’s a lot of organizations that participate in that kind of thing,” he said. “Don’t ignore any kind of stress you see in a veteran whether it’s a family member or an associate.”

Seth Stace is an Iraq war veteran who lives in Elkton, he said that it can be very difficult to adjust to civilian life after returning home from combat.

“Your nerves get put on end on a daily basis most of the time and then you go back to what we call normal life and you’re trying to find purpose in the everyday 9-5 type routine,” said Stace.

Stace said that since returning home he has always tried to pursue things careerwise that challenge him, provide comradery and allow him to fight for things he believes in.

“All of those things coming back from war are things that you’re looking for. You don’t necessarily know how to identify them or how to say them but when that is non-existent or very rare in corporate America it’s very hard to make that transition,” he said.

Stace said one of the best ways to help veterans is by supporting organizations like the American Legion and VFW.

“Veterans may not be able to communicate exactly what they need and providing groups and opportunities to be around other veterans for sure is one of the best ways,” he said.

For veterans struggling with PTSD, a possible solution that is growing in popularity is the use of psychedelic treatments like Ketamine infusions.

“Psychedelic is a term that describes medications that give you a sort of out-of-body experience but when we’re talking about psychedelics we should split them up into two categories. One is the FDA-approved medications (Ketamine) that help with conditions like PTSD and then the non-FDA-approved,” said Dr. Jay Joshi, CEO and Medical Director of the Illinois-based National Pain Centers.

15-years ago Dr. Joshi and his team launched the first Ketamine infusion treatment program for PTSD and have since treated thousands of patients.

“Ketamine infusions should be looked at as a way to stop the mind from racing and that’s one of the core problems with PTSD,” said Joshi. “There is nothing really debatable or sort of voodoo about this, it’s basic science at its best.”

Joshi said the outcomes for PTSD patients going through Ketamine infusion treatments are phenomenal. He said that 80 to 90 percent of patients show significant improvement after just a single treatment.

“You have patients coming in that are acutely suicidal, they’re going through panic-anxiety attacks, they can’t focus, they can’t concentrate, they can’t stay at work. And they’re leaving that same day after treatment feeling totally normal. Totally calm, their concentration is back, they can sleep, they can focus, they’re happy,” he said.

Unfortunately, Joshi said the VA has only begun to entertain the idea of Ketamine infusions as a treatment for PTSD in the last few years and the treatment is still not readily covered by the VA and other insurance providers.

“I think the issue might come down to just payment maybe they don’t want to pay for it even though in the long run you’re saving so much money and you’re transforming lives. The other issue may be they don’t understand it so there’s maybe a bad connotation and they just have a personal bias against it. But there really is no logical or medical reason to deny it,” he said.

Because of this Joshi said many veterans end up going to other countries for this type of treatment because they oftentimes end up having to pay for it out of pocket.

“The biggest impeder to patients getting this type of treatment is insurance coverage, VA coverage, quality of providers at the VA, the VA’s acceptance into allowing their patients to go out of the VA system for treatment,” he said. “If we could just change that narrative you would see a massive change in the paradigm. You’d see suicide rates go down tremendously, you would see patients being able to return to work, return to their jobs, their families staying intact as opposed to families getting fractured because of PTSD.”