Combating the Stigmas of the Invisible Wounds of Wars

Scenario: You encounter a service member or veteran who’s been injured. It was severe; they’ve lost a limb. The injury is a product of their service to their country. You feel an immediate sympathy; a mixture of sadness for what they’ve lost as well as pride that it happened in service and protection of their country. 

Now imagine this: You encounter another service member or veteran who’s been injured. The injury is just as severe, if not more severe than an amputation. Life hasn’t been easy for them since enduring the injury. But you feel no sympathy, no sadness, and no pride. You just brush past them because you see a physically fit soldier. However this service member has sustained what are known as the invisible wounds of war: traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress (PTS). They may seem visibly “okay,” but we now know that the wounds they received can be absolutely debilitating. 

The invisible wounds of war often come with somewhat of a stigma attached. Since they aren’t visible, there’s an inaccurate belief that they aren’t real or severe. The truth is, sometimes they can be even more significant than a physical wound. Just like cancer, invisible wounds are very real, very prevalent, and can be very deadly if not identified and addressed.

Between 2000 and 2020, the Department of Defense reported 434,618 instances of traumatic brain injury in the U.S. military. Through the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund’s work building the National Intrepid Center of Excellence (NICoE) and satellite Intrepid Spirit Centers, we’ve worked to heal our heroes and dismantle the stigmas of the Invisible Wounds of War. Consider helping us dismantle these stigmas by sharing this article, and others from our blog that help to educate about TBI and PTS. We’ve covered topics such as diagnosing traumatic brain injuries, effects of TBIs, treating TBIs, as well as what post-traumatic stress is, symptoms of post-traumatic stress, and treatments for PTS

Spreading awareness about these symptoms, effects, and treatments are very important. Awareness leads to education, which can affect change. Everyday life can be a serious challenge when your suffering the effects of a TBI or PTS. It’s normal for a person affected by these conditions to go from outgoing to reclusive, from loving to unemotional, and identifying these types of changes early can make the diagnostic process much more effective.

If you or someone you know has experienced a TBI or PTS related to serving in the armed forces and are comfortable sharing your story, we would love to hear it and share it. The more stories we tell, the more we’re able to normalize these experiences and their effects. Our goal is to inspire a greater compassion and understanding that encourages others to seek treatment. These treatments literally save lives. And that’s no exaggeration. Just ask SSG Todd Domerese (Ret.), who was treated at our NICoE after his injury. His story is like so many others, and they need to be told in order to dismantle these outdated stigmas. Help support IFHF’s mission by donating today, sharing this article, and deepening your understanding of these invisible wounds of war.

Posted on May 17 2021 in Blog

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