He also said the U.S. military needs to come up with "creative ways to encourage folks to stay in treatment" because PTSD, which can produce a range of symptoms of varying degrees, is a chronic condition. He also noted that because it can go into remission, those who get treatment "shouldn't see the diagnosis of PTSD as a scarlet letter" that closes doors to them if they want to stay in the military.
Dr. Afkhami welcomed the idea of honoring invisibly wounded war heroes with the Purple Heart, saying that "any reframing of our view of post-traumatic stress, including recognizing it as a war wound worthy of a Purple Heart, certainly can help the process, but it's not the solution. ...When we do give a Purple Heart for PTSD, we should have another medal for people who go through treatment, because they rendered service not only to the Army, but also to society at large."
In its 17-page report, NAMI said 1 in 5 active duty military personnel have had symptoms of PTSD, depression or other mental health conditions. An active-duty soldier dies from suicide every 36 hours and a veteran dies by his or her own hand every 80 minutes.
Suicides are on the rise within the National Guard and Reserves, even among those who haven't been called up, the NAMI report said.
Families on the home front suffer depression and post-traumatic stress at about the same rates as service members, according to estimates cited by NAMI. More than one-third of military husbands and wives have one or more mental health problems, while one-third of children suffer from depression, anxiety or acute stress reaction.
NAMI encourages current and former military members or families in distress to call The National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255, which can transfer them to military and veteran crisis lines.