Female veterans with PTSD getting better care from Veterans Affairs

One out of every 10 veterans leaving the military is a woman, and as that number grows so do the cases of PTSD.

But helping these women is proving difficult for Veterans Affairs, a system that historically has only focused on men.

Navy veteran Tanya Godinez is going to call ‘The H.O.P.E. Center’ home for the next nine weeks. She was raped by a man on her ship 26 years ago and has suffered from PTSD ever since.

About 1-in-4 women say they were sexually assaulted while serving in the military. As a result, most PTSD cases stem from those assaults. And sadly, some women say they deal with this trauma for decades.

“I kind of look at PTSD as like having a full-time job where it’s intense,” says Caryn Dilandro, PhD Clinical Psychologist and PTSD program manager.

This in-patient V.A. facility near Buffalo is only one of four in the nation for women only dealing with everything from PTSD to depression to anxiety.

“It could be all sorts of physical things. You know, G.I. is affected and rashes, all sorts of things,” explains Women Veterans program manager Jill LaMantia.

Understandably, many women don’t like seeking treatment in facilities that have focused almost exclusively on men. But the V.A. is changing that.

“I literally meet them at the front door. I walk them everywhere they need to, to get used to the building,” says LaMantia.

After years of isolation, coping with PTSD on her own, Navy veteran Amanda Krzyzanowski wants to make sure no other woman has to suffer alone. That all changed for her at The Hope Center.

“Now I don’t feel that way and I’m proud to say that I did it,” says Amanda Krzyzanowski.
The VA is trying to reach out to women veterans to let them know they are eligible for care regardless of where or how long they served. The administration has also set up a hotline for women to call at 1-855-V-A-WOMEN.

RESEARCH SUMMARY:
WOMEN VETS AND PTSD
REPORT #2400

BACKGROUND: Post traumatic stress disorder, also known as PTSD, is a mental health condition that is triggered by an emotional or stressful event. When a person experiences or witnesses a traumatic or terrifying event, they are more likely to re-live it through PSTD. When experiencing an uncommon event, most people may feel anger, shock, nervousness, fear, and even guilt. These emotions are normal, and for most, they go away over time. On the other hand, for people who suffer from PTSD, these emotions can intensify; forbidding them to live a normal daily life. The disorder can affect anyone at any age. Some of the most common events that can cause PTSD are:

* Sexual or physical assault
* The unexpected death of a loved one
* An accident
* War
* A natural disaster

Approximately 8% of the American population, 24.4 million, suffers from PTSD.
(Source: http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/post-traumatic-stress-disorder#1 & http://www.ptsdunited.org/ptsd-statistics-2/)

TREATMENTS: PTSD is often treated with a type of counseling called psychotherapy, medication, or both. The goal of these treatments is to reduce the emotion and physical symptoms, to improve everyday life activities, and to help the person cope with the experienced event. Most often the medications used are antidepressants like Prozac and Zoloft. The psychotherapy counseling can include:

* Cognitive behavioral therapy
* Exposure therapy
* Psychodynamic therapy
* Family therapy
* Group therapy
* Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)

Symptoms from PTSD never completely go away; but with the help of the treatments, people learn to cope and to manage the intensity and reoccurrence of the symptoms.
(Source: http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/post-traumatic-stress-disorder#3-6)

PSTD & WOMEN VETS: PTSD is a disorder that can affect anyone, but women are twice as likely to experience it than men. 1 in every 9 women develops the condition. In the army, 17% of combat troops are female. For most men soldiers, war is the reason for developing the disorder. Whereas, 71% of female military personnel develop PTSD due to sexual assault within ranks. PSTD is often treated in facilities, but these are often men-dominated. For this reason, the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs is trying to become more female friendly. They currently possess four facilities for women-only in Batavia (near Buffalo), NY; Menlo Park, CA; Lyons, NJ; and, Brockton, MA. In these facilities the female soldiers can be treated for any mental health condition like PSTD, depression and anxiety. The V.A. is currently trying to reach out to women veterans to let them know they are eligible for this care regardless of how long or where they served. The number for the VA Women Veteran Hotline is: 1-855-VA-Women, or 1-855-823-6696.
(Source: http://www.ptsdunited.org/ptsd-statistics-2/ & Jill LaMantia)