Mental Health: The Front Lines

Mental Health: The Front Lines (Image 1)

9 On Your Side continues to look into mental health in the east, focusing on the large military community that calls eastern Carolina home.

These men and women are asked to serve and sacrifice, leaving their lives and families behind and at times paying the ultimate price.
But even when service members do return home, they still fight their own battles.
WNCT 9 On Your Side’s Katie Harden met with Joshua Jensen, a man who has served his country and is now battling PTSD.

He says he had to start over when he got home, even facing a divorce. Not because of lack of treatment services, but because he had to admit that he was not alone on the mental frontline.

“When I was in, I was reconnaissance which is a specialized form of combat arms,” explained Joshua Jensen, Army veteran. “Its primary job is to get eyes on things, find out information, move in, move out quietly so we move with smaller groups of people.”

Jensen is 26 years old and an Army vet. He served three and a half years in Iraq, helping ground forces and even worked to train the Iraqi army.  

“You’re used to being on edge 24/7,” said Jensen.

Jensen says while deployed he saw a lot of destruction, including losing some of his friends in combat.
Now, he’s working to readjust on the home front.

“The hardest part is learning how to be a person again and not being a soldier,” said Jensen.

PTSD is a daily struggle for Jensen, like many other military members who have seen war torn areas across the globe. He’s diagnosed with having severe anxiety, chronic sleep impairment, depression, panic attacks and even memory loss.

Jensen is not alone with the troubles he brought home from Iraq. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates more than 21 percent of Iraqi War veterans suffer from PTSD.

“It’s indisputable that our veterans are our Nation’s heroes, but as strong as they are, they’re not immune to the human emotions that all of us experience,” explained Dr. Kevin Smythe, Greenville VA psychology supervisor.

Identifying the symptoms and seeking treatment is one of the hardest battles to overcome when it comes to military members.

“I kind of force myself to see that something is wrong and I have to be okay,” explained Jensen. “But it’s not easy and I have to work on it daily.”

Studies say early treatment is necessary.

“We know the faster we intervene in the treatment of a stress disorder, the likelihood that the treatment will be affective and the recovery from the symptoms will be increased,” explained Dr. Wilfredo Rodriguez, Greenville VA Chief of Medical Health.

The Center of Veteran Affairs is just one resource available to military men and women suffering with PTSD. It’s as simple as logging on to your computer to find help.

“This day and age, we have social media sites. We have electronic resources. We have 800 numbers that somebody can call. Not necessarily the veteran but a family member, to encourage a veteran and help engage in treatment,” explained Smythe.

After the sacrifices have been made and the time served, Jensen says he knew this was a possibility and he still chose to protect and serve.

“I went to make a difference and I knew the price it could cost and I was willing to pay it,” said Jensen. “It’s difficult, it’s not easy and it’s not fun but I knew what I was doing when I signed up. I knew what the consequences could be when I signed up.”

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