How Can Christians Serve Veterans with PTSD?

Biola authors explore effects of post-traumatic stress disorder on military families

Nov. 11, 2013 By Jason Newell

It’s one of the most life-altering war wounds that a service member can experience, even though it doesn’t leave a scratch on the body: Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a severe mental health condition that can take a tremendous lifelong toll on military veterans and their families.

And after more than a decade of military involvement in the Middle East, the disorder is on the rise. According to a recent Department of Veterans Affairs study, about 30 percent of the 834,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who accessed VA health care over the past decade were diagnosed with PTSD. Facing the growing needs, the federal government in August launched a new $107 million research effort aimed at better diagnosing and treating PTSD and mild traumatic brain injuries.

What should we know about the disorder, and what can we do to help those whom it affects? To learn more, Biola Magazine recently connected with alumni Kelly Orr (Ph.D. ᾽78) and Welby O’Brien (’78), each of whom authored books this year on PTSD and military veterans.

Below is a brief excerpt from the interview, which can be found in full at Biola Magazine’s website.

A lot of people who are familiar with the term “post-traumatic stress disorder” may not have a good sense of what the condition actually involves. Can you give us an understanding of what life is like for someone with PTSD?

O’BRIEN: PTSD is rampant, rapidly escalating, and most people have no idea of how severely it affects those who have it — young and old, men and women — as well as all those around them who love them. PTSD can affect everyone, not just veterans. As a result of a severe trauma, they will live as if the impending crisis could reoccur at any moment. They live in constant fear. Braced. Adrenaline always switched on. Staying in that emergency mode 24/7 severely overwhelms the person’s ability to cope. When something triggers them — agitates and stirs up the trauma — they have no reserve with which to handle it in a healthy way as others might. Sometimes it takes all they have to just get up in the morning, and to just make it through the day.

What can all of us — whether as individuals or as church communities — do to provide support to veterans and families dealing with PTSD?

ORR: Veterans and their families need safe places and safe people. They need to know you are there for the long run, not just for the immediate crises. Church communities have the privilege to speak the promises of God into the lives of veterans and their families. I think God has entrusted the Christian community to initiate transformation, which takes time, truth and effort. This is a way to let the veterans and their families know their souls are secure and for believers to be the gospel in action, a “bridge,” directing them to Jesus, the divine healer. I like the term “bridge” because it represents a vital linkage to life-giving resources. There are many Internet resources available through the VA and Defense Centers of Excellence, but one I prefer churches and individuals to consider is the Campus Crusade for Christ division of Military Ministries program, Bridges to Healing Seminars, whose mission is to equip churches to minister to military members and families.

Read the full interview at Biola Magazine:


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