Today is PTSD Awareness Day. Everyone thinks they know what PTSD is, yet nearly everyone is wrong. I’m not sure what can be accomplished with this one, nationwide PTSD Awareness Day without some context. Providing that context has been the purpose of the PTSD Series I’ve been running. But, since everyone likes practical, simple, to-the-point advice, here's a few suggestions –
If you are a media-type, get your head out of your butt. PTSD is neither a mental illness nor does it predispose people to violence. PTSD has many causes and comes in many forms. Someone who is raped will probably have PTSD, but the assumption would never be that person is violent as a result of their experience. In fact, the assumption is a rape victim will be timid, frightened of unfamiliar people and places, preoccupied with personal safety and security, startle easily and much more inclined to self-harm than harm others. The same holds true for veterans.
Veterans rarely say they suffer from flashbacks of firefights or offensive maneuvers. The memories that jolt them out of a sound sleep are from the times when they were attacked, when all was calm until they rolled over an IED. With all forms and causes of PTSD, it is the feelings of helplessness experienced that haunt the most.
Whether a person witnessed their entire family die in a car crash, they were the victim of an assault or they held their buddies torn and bloody bodies through the last gasps of life, in that moment and in their memories, those who have PTSD felt loss, fear, helpless and hopeless. These are the most powerfully debilitating emotions humans can experience.
PTSD is not about what is wrong with you, it is about what happened to you. Happened TO you.
If you are a civilian, an average consumer in this 24/7/365 media world, use the common sense God gave you. Understand that Hollywood depictions of soldiers and war bear as much semblance to reality as do TV shows like Good Times, Roseanne or Dallas.
Sure, there have been some movies that are fairly accurate depictions of war or typical middle-America, but even those are at best two-dimensional representations of real life. Even reality TV is scripted, contorted and set up – think of any of the Real Housewives incarnations or Duck Dynasty. We watch them because they are entertaining, not because they represent real people.They have story arcs, producers and writers. They are not documentaries of social anthropology expeditions.
Rambo is as accurate a depiction of veterans as Clueless is of a Southern California teenager. They are stereotypes. Judging all black people based on New Jack City is the same as judging all veterans on Taxi Driver.
If you are a hiring professional and you make any assumptions about veterans other than they are highly trained, highly motivated and proven team players and leaders, you’re an idiot. If you ask a veteran if they saw combat, you’re a very special kind of idiot. Unless you yourself are a combat veteran, everything you think you know about having been in war is likely not only wrong, but proves you’re an idiot if you allow those thoughts to play any role in your hiring practices.
Whether you are looking to hire a line cook, a warehouse manager, an IT professional, an accountant, a customer service rep or a CEO, a veteran should be your first choice. And not because of the tax-credits your company can get.
What other class of applicants have better proven they can work with people from all walks of life, multitask, adhere to goals and directives, be punctual, a team player and a leader? If you don’t understand there is practically no job in the civilian world that does not have an identical counterpart in the military, at the risk of repeating myself, you’re an idiot. If you don’t know how to look at tasks performed over job titles, again, well you know what you are.
Today, June 27th is PTSD Awareness Day. While I am happy there is a national conversation about this, I would be much happier if those conversations were rooted in reality. Perhaps that is what this day can accomplish.
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