5 Ways Veterans Can Support Each Other in Higher Education

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, up to 60 percent of men and 50 percent of women will experience a traumatic event at least once in their lives. These numbers become even more staggering for veterans, particularly those who have been to war. The adjustment back to civilian life comes with many challenges, especially when the veteran suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

PTSD is a mental disorder that can occur after an individual experiences a traumatic event, regardless of age or type of trauma. Someone with PTSD will generally relive the experience over and over again in their head and feel the same fears and anxieties as if the event was happening again. This can put an individual at a disadvantage when it comes to pursuing higher education or starting a new career. This is due to the common side effects of PTSD such as intense feelings of anxiety, helplessness, trouble sleeping, difficulty concentrating, and impulsive destructive behavior, among others. Since veterans understand these unique struggles, they can offer an understanding support system for other veterans trying to navigate higher education or start a new career. Below are five ways you can help a fellow veteran today:

1. Form a Small Support Group

Isolation is a common side effect of PTSD, making everyday stressors seem more overwhelming when coupled with the feeling of going through it all alone. In order to combat these feelings and increase your likelihood of academic and career success, forming a small support group and inviting your veteran peers can offer an uplifting environment for encouragement. This can make a world of difference for someone who isn’t prepared to seek help. Make sure these meetings take place at a consistent time and place so that those suffering from PTSD do not have the added anxiety of uncertainty and anxiety that can come with constant changes. Once the time and place has been chosen, remain diligent and spread the word.  

2. Use Social Media  

Social media is free and relatively easy to access. Depending on your level of comfort with different social media platforms, you can utilize them as much or as little as you would like. It’s no surprise that social media can be a detractor from an individual with PTSD’s well-being. However, if you intentionally use social media to post positive messages and share uplifting content, you can help make social media a source of positivity and information sharing. Another great use of social media is to grow your network. If you want to support fellow veterans with PTSD, you can use social media to connect with people you wouldn’t have otherwise met.

3. Be an Advocate for Treatment

The tricky thing with PTSD is that it can cause severe depression, anxiety, and helplessness, which can make someone want to stay home all day instead of going out and seeking help. A common misconception with any mental illness is that there is no way out. However, a great way to support a veteran with PTSD is to advocate for professional treatment. Along with a lifestyle of exercise, fresh air, healthy diet, and strong relationships, professional treatment can help the individual manage their PTSD.  Psychotherapy and exposure therapy are two types of professional treatment options. Finally, since many individuals with PTSD self-medicate through drugs and alcohol, co-occurring disorder treatment can also be effective.

4. Be an Accountability Partner

At the beginning of a new life chapter like starting school or a new career, there are many things to consider. You’re likely to experience unplanned hiccups and hurdles that may seem like signs to quit. A person with PTSD is expected to demonstrate resilience at a point in their life when they are often the most fragile. This is where an accountability partner comes in handy. Having someone to express your commitments, ideas, and dreams to can increase your chances of following through with them since you’ll have someone to check up on you.

Accountability partners also get the amazing opportunity to act as a cheerleader for someone else. Since you know the inner workings of their dreams and goals, you will have a front-row seat to celebrate their milestones — big and small. In education, there are many small goals to accomplish daily, so having someone cheer you can help you manage PTSD with more success.  

5. Avoid Being Judgmental

Create a relationship with people that are not judgmental and foster openness and trust. The quickest way to get a person who is living with PTSD to shut down is to judge, insult, or blame them. Become a source of positivity and encouragement in times of need. In most cases, PTSD can influence an individual to participate in negative behaviors that do not improve their quality of life. In these instances, it is best to approach the person with compassion, grace and understanding. This can strengthen your trust in the relationship which will in turn encourage the person to speak up about their struggles more readily. If they are met with judgment, they will most likely allow shame and embarrassment to isolate them even more.

If you or someone you know struggles with PTSD and are trying to navigate the challenges faced with higher education, know that help is available.


Disclaimer: This guest blog post was written by The Recovery Village. The opinions expressed by the Recovery Village writers are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of Ed4Career or any employee thereof. All data and information provided in this article is for informational purposes only. Ed4Career is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the Recovery Village. We share this information for informational purposes only as well as to give you general information and a general understanding of PTSD and substance use disorder, not to provide specific medical or recovery advice. To learn more about The Recovery Village, please visit www.therecoveryvillage.com.