It is difficult to be a war hero, something that Meredith Iler understands and respects. She knows these people risk their lives for our country, knowing very well that they may end up disabled or dead, with no means of providing for a family. This fear is so real, that many active duty military personnel struggle with them. Yet, they endure them and do their job. However, it is the fact that they live in fear at all times that puts them at such grave risk of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), particularly when something does go wrong. Unfortunately, when they return to civilian lives, many of them are left to their own devices, and they turn to substance abuse to help cope.
Meredith Iler Believes in Helping Heroes
Not all soldiers end up addicted to substances, but Iler believes even one is too many. This is why she has placed such a strong focus on ensuring the military, the community, and loved ones of active duty personnel know how to recognize the warning signs of PTSD. In so doing, they can stop the condition from progressing and they can ensure their loved one does not find themselves addicted to substances.
Someone who suffers from PTSD sometimes loses touch with reality. They have very real flashbacks, effectively zoning out as their mind is back at the place where their psychological trauma occurred. At this point, they need to be calmed, but in a non-confrontational manner. Sometimes, when they go through such a period, they become very aggressive and could even put others in danger if they are confronted. Often, they have certain triggers that send them into these modes, but there are also triggers that can get them back out.
The substance of abuse of choice for people with PTSD seems to be alcohol. There are different reasons for this, one of which is the ready availability of alcohol on virtually every street corner. Not just that, there is a symbolic “washing away” of difficulties with alcohol. Unfortunately, it is also a highly destructive substance as well as being a depressant, which means it only makes matters worse. Often, returning heroes develop suicidal thoughts as a result.
Drug abuse is also problematic. This isn’t because veterans have friends who supply them with drugs, but rather because they usually have the financial means to purchase them and unscrupulous dealers will quite literally look them up. Illegal street drugs are a multi-billion dollar business, and dealers do not care who they hurt. When taking drugs, someone with a PTSD episode can start to hallucinate even more, making the lines between what is real and what is remembered indistinguishable. The result is that they can cause real harm to others and to themselves.
Meredith Iler believes there is hope, however. Good treatment exists for PTSD and physicians are aware of the particular needs of veterans. Mainly, however, she feels that the community as a whole, from top government officials down to school children, should learn to respect our veterans for who they are: heroes.