Although there are over 40 million men and women of all ages, who live and struggle with PTSD, much of society continues to connect PTSD with male Veterans. Unfortunately, PTSD affects both men and women with diverse backgrounds. PTSD can originate from a traumatic experience that occurred during childhood or an event that triggered symptoms as an adult. PTSD doesn’t discriminate. It affects individuals of all ages, sex, race, religion, educational background, and ability.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs reports that 60% of men and 50% of women will experience at least one trauma in their lives and 10% of women will develop PTSD compared to 4% of men. To believe that male Veterans are the largest group affected by PTSD is a common misconception. Female Veterans suffering from PTSD are often overlooked, but the number continues to grow as their experiences become known.
Women in the Military: Vietnam Era
For decades, women’s involvement in the military has been less prevalent than men, but recent reports suggest that PTSD affects women of the military dating back to the Vietnam War era. A study, released from JAMA Psychiatry, found that women, who served overseas during the Vietnam War, had higher rates of PTSD than military women who served in the U.S. during the same time period. Approximately 7,500 women served in Vietnam (thousands of others were stationed elsewhere) and about 20% of these women suffered from PTSD; some still struggle today. Although these women were unable to be part of combat, many were nurses and worked in clerical and administrative positions and as a result, were still exposed to casualties and other stress that lead to PTSD.
Afghanistan and Iraq Female Vets
The projected estimate for women Vets during this era of wartime is about 11%. Just like their male comrades, women are likely to develop PTSD after their involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq. More troubling is the high rate of suicide that results from suffering with PTSD. Because there’s still some stigma surrounding PTSD and suicide, the incidence of suicide rates among women is rarely discussed. However, new VA research finds that female Veterans, ages 18-29, commit suicide at nearly 12 times the rate of female non veterans of the same age group.
Just like male vets, who have suffer from PTSD after their involvement in the military, women vets are likely to develop PTSD after involvement in combat or being a victim of Military Sexual Trauma (MST).
Helping Female Veterans
Like male Veterans, it’s vital that women Veterans know that there are resources to help them. As a society, we must participate in part of the healing process and eliminating the stigma behind mental and physical issues related to being a Veteran of War. As a non-PTSD sufferer, your words of encouragement and support may not be enough, but by committing to gaining a better understanding or raising awareness, you can show your support and let our women Veterans know that they are not alone, nor are they forgotten. Don’t let the women of the military feel alone in the darkness of PTSD.