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'The key is reducing the stigma': Advocates push for PTSD awareness on Veterans Day

Wounded Warrior Project has switched its main efforts to focus on helping veterans suffering from post traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries.

CLEVELAND — They selflessly served our country, making countless sacrifices, yet many of our nation's veterans suffer from invisible battle wounds that can be harder to recognize than the physical ones.

"The resources are there, the key is reducing the stigma, eliminating the barriers to care and encouraging warriors to go get that help," said Michael Linnington, Wounded Warrior Project CEO.

Linnington said the nonprofit organization has switched its main efforts to serve veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and traumatic brain injuries.

He said many veterans feel like they don't deserve help and compare themselves to others who had physical injuries, or the ones who sacrificed their lives.

"You were involved in a traumatic experience. A couple of your buddies got killed, you didn't, and you're wondering, 'why not you? Why them?' And then facing those families when you come home, all those things are things that our warriors have to get treated, have to at least talk about," Linnington said.

The military mindset of being told what to do and how to do it, as well as other struggles that come with adjusting to civilian life also create another barrier.

"Everything you need when you're in the military, especially while you're deployed in combat is largely given to you: the best equipment, the best training, the best leaders in the world and then when you come home it's not given to you, you have to find it, fight for it and put it into action," Linnington said.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs about 30% of Vietnam War veterans have had PTSD in their lifetime. Also, 12% of Gulf War veterans and 11-20% of veterans who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom have PTSD in a given year.

"It may start with isolation, it may lead into difficult relationships, personal relationships and then it can get worse and it can lead to substance abuse and even suicide," Linnington said.

If you are a veteran in crisis or concerned about a loved one, you can call the Veterans Crisis Line at 988 then press "1" or text 838255 to connect with a crisis counselor 24/7, 365 days a year. 

For more information about tips, resources and treatment programs click here

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