Daniel Somers was a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He was part of Task Force Lightning, an intelligence unit. Daniel suffered greatly from PTSD and had been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury and several other war-related conditions. On June 10, 2013, Daniel wrote his last words in a letter (read here) before taking his life at the age of 30. His family published his letter in hopes of bringing greater awareness to the pressing issue of PTSD in soldiers.
I was touched by Daniel’s story of his struggle with PTSD, anxiety and depression. My best wishes go out to his family for their loss. From my experience as a therapist who have worked with veterans and victims of trauma, there is much shame attached to having these symptoms, and people fear the stigmatization that accompanies having a mental health problem. There is also a lack of provision for alternative treatments to medication. Daniel spoke of the fear around over-prescribing, but there is so much research out there that has shown that psychological treatments are an effective way of treating the symptoms of PTSD and depression. Daniel should be congratulated on the effort and the attempts that he made to manage his life with these difficulties. It seems a shame that he did not get the help he needed and deserved as do so many of the soldiers returning form war.
The last twenty years has seen an increase in the the number of conflicts and “war zones” around the world, there should be plans put in place to manage the fallout from these and more money invested in providing psychological help for those returning from war. Psychological assessment for PTSD and treatment should become a standard pathway for returning soldiers. It makes sense that this is offered early,to avoid or minimize the long-term psychological and social problems that may arise as a consequence of having been in combat.