Sir Patrick Stewart's father, Alfred, was a World War II hero. He fought valiantly in the Battle of Dunkirk, a tactically important conflict. But when he came home, he continued to fight.
Stewart has shared his story about his father's abuse with millions, but this is a new way of thinking about it — even for him.
1. Post-traumatic stress disorder is a recently coined term but not a recently discovered condition.
Back then they called it "shell shock," "war neurosis," or "combat stress reaction," if they called it anything at all. It wasn't until 1980 that the American Psychological Association recognized PTSD as a specific, diagnosable disorder with specific symptoms — the same year Alfred Stewart died. Patrick Stewart didn't realize that his father suffered from PTSD until 2012.
2. Though the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts are considered American campaigns, more than 220,000 British troops deployed there as well.
They have similarly experienced tragic casualties, devastating physical injuries, and lasting mental injuries. King's College in London studied a group of British troops who deployed and found that 27.2% showed symptoms of mental disorders [PDF].
3. Symptoms may not surface right away.
James Saunders (featured in the video) didn't start having PTSD symptoms right after returning home. It wasn't until he had a totally unrelated personal tragedy that brought his war experiences flooding back. Knowing the warning signs can help prevent a crisis if an uneventful transition home turns for the worst.
4. 1 in 5 veterans develop PTSD or major depression. But 4 in 5 don't.
Don't assume every veteran is suffering from a mental illness. Veterans are disproportionately affected by mental health issues, but they aren't the only ones. Mental illness among college students is soaring, but no one assumes that of them.
5. A person with PTSD may not show all the classic symptoms severely or all at once.
As he said in the video, Gary Driscoll's PTSD symptoms started small and got bigger. First he experienced anxiety, then started misusing alcohol, then losing control of his anger. One at a time, not all at once.
Anyone who experiences a trauma will likely experiences some PTSD-like symptoms, but when those symptoms persist and worsen instead of go away, it's time to get help.
6. PTSD is not the only mental health issue that can come from war trauma.
PTSD is the most common, but those who have combat-related mental health issues may experience depression, substance use problems, or generalized anxiety. Traumatic brain injury — somewhat like a very severe concussion — from exposure to a bomb blast can also cause mental health issues.
7. The key to recovery for Gary and James was access to consistent, quality care.
Combat Stress, the charity Patrick Stewart spoke about, and the National Health Service are the primary ways British vets get care for war-related mental health issues. In the United States, there are many private charities that provide some mental health assistance, but private insurance and the Veterans Health Administration are the primary ways American veterans get care.
8. People who experience abnormal thoughts, feelings, or behaviors that could be attributed to mental health issues don't seek help because of shame.
PTSD symptoms have been stigmatized ever since the "shell shock" days. Veterans who had difficulty adjusting after war were called cowards, lacking in character, malingering, whiny, or weak. To this day, the stigma associated with mental health issues is one of the chief barriers keeping service members and veterans who need care from seeking it out — even if it is available.