Veterans Battle the Stigma of PTSD as They Search for Employment

A recent study reveals that employers are reluctant to hire veterans who may suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). After serving a tour or multiple tours of duty, some veterans are coming home to battle for their own sanity.

A 2011 survey by the Apollo Research Institute revealed that out of 831 managers, 39 percent were less likely to hire veterans when considering war-related mental health disorders. A study in 2010 by the Society of Human Resource Management reflected similar results. Forty-six percent of the employers in their study admitted that they were less likely to hire a veteran who had suffered from PTSD or other psychological issues.

Veterans are not the only people suffer from PTSD. Those who have been involved in or witnessed accidents, murder, or abuse, or who have survived catastrophic disasters like storms or fires may have PTSD. But media attention has connected PTSD mostly to those returning from service who are haunted by all of the uncertainty, violence, and stresses of living in a war zone.

Hiring Bias

The stigma of PTSD threatens the future civilian employment of veterans. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, the September 2001 unemployment rate for male veterans aged 18 to 24 was higher than non-veterans. Veterans had an employment rate of nearly 30 percent, while civilians had a rate of 17.6 percent.

On the flip side, Dr. Meredith Kleykamp, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Maryland, notes that employers have a positive bias towards veterans who have skills comparable to a civilian. Veterans are seen as reputable solid employees-unless they have a psychological disorder.

PTSD Stigma Prevents Veterans from Seeking Treatment

According to Sara Skinner, member of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), between 2005 to 2009 one military member died from suicide every 36 hours. Nearly 20 percent of Iraq or Afghanistan veterans will suffer from PTSD. Unfortunately, many veterans will not seek treatment for fear of losing their job or appearing weak in front of family and future employers.

PTSD has nothing to do with weakness. It is a normal reaction to a highly stressful traumatic event. But PTSD symptoms that are not addressed can escalate into panic attacks, depression, drug abuse, and suicide.

Not Much Different Than the Average Citizen

One reason employers may be wary to hire military personnel is their knowledge of the tragedies of suicide and violence seen on the news and their lack of knowledge overall about PTSD and psychological disorders. Dr. Josef Ruzek, director of the dissemination and training division at the National Center for PTSD, emphasizes that most soldiers do not suffer from PTSD.

The average citizen could suffer from PTSD as well as a veteran. Someone who survives a car accident or someone who witnesses abuse could suffer the same symptoms as someone who has given military service. Yet, military personnel are in the spotlight more often in association with PTSD.

Erasing a Stigma

The Department of Veterans Affairs hopes to help educate the public about PTSD and encourage military members to seek treatment. Since more attention will be focused on veterans with PTSD, this campaign may take a while to reach its goals.

As employers and others realize that PTSD can affect anyone and that those with PTSD can be treated and healed, more veterans may be hired for jobs for which they are qualified. With further confidence, they will feel more able to confront their disorder and seek the treatment they need.