Why Is It So Hard for Veterans to Seek Treatment for PTSD, and What Impact Does It Have on Their Families?

March 8, 2016 @ 12:00 am

In an online event held on February 23, 2016, Columbia School of Social Work alumnus Michael Day (MSW’10), who served as a U.S. Marine from 1998 to 2003, gave a candid account of his struggle to seek treatment for his post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Day had participated in the invasion of Iraq in 2003 that marked the start of the Iraq War. When he got out of the service, he knew something was wrong—but wasn’t able to find the help he needed at the Veteran’s Administration in Chicago, where he was living with his wife and attending Northwestern University.

In answer to a series of questions posed by CSSW’s Communications Director Mary-Lea Cox-Awanohara, Day told the audience he would go through a divorce, earn a master’s in social work at Columbia, and work in the VA himself before finally reaching the point where he could no longer deny his mental health problems and had to seek treatment. Today he applies his social work training in an artistic capacity—principally by making films about veterans with PTSD, one of which, Tango on the Balcony, is currently in film festivals all over the world.

Go to more information on Tango on the Balcony, including trailer.

Joining Day at the online event was Lieutenant Colonel Franklin Swayne, who teaches courses in military social work on CSSW’s online campus. Lt. Col. Swayne started off by offering some key statistics on PTSD among veterans, with reference to a selection of infographics that had been created by Day to promote his film.

Go to Tango on the Balcony infographics.

The event culminated with a discussion between Day and Swayne, along with many audience members, about (among other topics):

  • why so many veterans find it hard to admit they have PTSD, let alone seek treatment;
  • the ripple effect of PTSD on families, employers, and society generally; and
  • some ideas of what could be done to improve the situation for veterans in need of treatment for PTSD.

The event attracted more than four hundred registrations, and over a hundred participants took part on the day, from all over the United States and Puerto Rico. They wrote more than 700 messages into the chat, an edited version of which can be downloaded here (PDF: 14 pages). It contains links to many veterans’ resources. Day has made available his annotated resource list of veterans’ organizations; download it here (PDF: 4 pages).

The event was sponsored by CSSW’s Online Campus, which is still taking applications. The deadline is April 25. Get information here.

The Online Campus would like to thank Michael Day, Franklin Swain, and all the fantastic attendees for such an informative, lively event.