Thursday marks PTSD Awareness Day, disorder that affects millions
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder affects 5.2 million people. More than 3 percent of the population. Thursday is PTSD Awareness Day. It's a day that hits close to home for some right here in Central Illinois.
Traumatic events, much like those that come with serving in a war, trigger this disorder and it's not uncommon for people with PTSD to not even know they have it. That's exactly what happened for one Vietnam War veteran in Decatur.
Richard Scales got out of Vietnam in 1970, but his memories have never left him.
"It just floods back on you," he said. "And it's just things that you try to cope with the best that you can. And sometimes you can and sometimes you can't."
For 26 years Scales tried to cope with his flashbacks.
"I knew something was wrong because I was going through different emotional states," he said.
But he didn't know what to do.
'I had other veterans come up to me and tell me, 'Bud, there's something wrong with you. You should go see a doctor,'" he explained.
So he did. He went through a series of tests and his results were off the charts.
"And they said, 'Well when you first took it, we thought the machine broke,'" he described.
Scales was diagnosed with PTSD.
"A person that goes through an event that is really traumatic sometimes those people experience symptoms related to the trauma," said Steve Rathnow senior counselor at St. Mary's Hospital.
Those symptoms could include anxiety, having flashbacks or nightmares, or avoiding situations that remind the person of the event.
"It really takes a toll on the persons social and emotional well being," Rathnow said.
Scales condition has improved through the years but not without hardship.
"I went through a marriage and got divorced," he said.
And that's why he wants to help.
"I know what I went through and I don't want these other younger people to go the same thing, not if they can get the help now," he said.
Talking can help or taking medication. Resources are available for local veterans.
PTSD is a disorder that can affect anyone. The Veterans of Foreign Wars is able to help war veterans and their families. If you think you might have a problem, they encourage you to go and talk about it. They can put you touch with the right people.