Veterans with PTSD facing deeper impacts from COVID-19
ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. - Going out to see friends and family, working a job that keeps you around people, getting out of the house. Those all may sound like things many have lost during the COVID-19 pandemic, but they are also tools military veterans use to learn how to cope with their post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). With the pandemic severely limiting how often people can do all of those things, health officials have had to find other ways to help PTSD patients.
"With this pandemic, it's literally halted me being able to go out, visit my dealers, my customers, see people at shows and what not," Todd Hawks, a military veteran who suffers from PTSD symptoms said.
Hawks said his job requires him to travel and be around people all the time. He said that is good for him because it keeps him from dwelling on what he called his "demons" from his military service. With the pandemic forcing him to stay home more, he said he hit some low points over the last year.
"It totally wiped everything out that I knew that helped me," Hawks said. "So, I had a couple of months that were really bad for me, just not wanting to do anything, my wife seeing me lay around, not doing anything. So, it's been a struggle."
Dr. Dennis Bourdo, II, a clinical psychologist at the St. Joseph County Veterans Affairs (VA) Clinic, said the impact of the pandemic has hit PTSD patients in varying degrees.
"On the other end of the spectrum, I would say that some folks have not felt it as much because they have already been isolative," Dr. Bourdo said. "So, the experience the rest of us have had in staying inside has been one that they are more familiar with because of some of that isolation that they tend to struggle with."
Hawks said he definitely felt n impact from the pandemic restrictions.
"For that to be put in front of you like it was, it was just shoved in our face of all of the sudden it was 'hey, we just stop living,'" Hawks said You lay in bed. Sometimes, you just don't want to get up, and you struggle to get through the day trying to find a new course of work."
Dr. Jeffrey Eck, the medical director at the St. Joseph County VA Clinic, said the best way to help veterans with PTSD is by getting vaccinated to open normal life the veterans need again.
"Hopefully, this is winding down," Dr. Eck said. "We're seeing less and less, and we're getting the shots out. We're giving shots out every day, Monday through Friday. The veterans, all they have to do is call up, sand we're going to get them a shot. We're going to get the Johnson and Johnson soon. So, my advice to any veteran or anyone is whatever shot you can get, get it."
Dr. Bourdo said the best way for you at home to help a veteran you know with PTSD is to encourage them to get vaccinated, interact with people more and keep them busy so they do not find themselves dwelling on their "demons."