Family

Trump told a room full of veterans that PTSD only affects those who aren't 'strong.'

UPDATE 10/4/2016: This story has been updated to reflect Trump's full quote and additional context on his larger point.

Trump told a room full of veterans that PTSD only affects those who aren't 'strong.'

On Monday, Donald Trump spoke to the Retired American Warriors PAC in Virginia, where he made some controversial remarks about post-traumatic stress disorder.

During the Q&A in his speech to American war veterans, Trump was asked about the suicide epidemic affecting the U.S. military.

Trump speaking to vets at Drake University in January. Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.


"When you talk about the mental health problems, when people come back from war and combat, they see things that maybe a lot of the folks in this room have seen many times over. And you're strong and you can handle it, but a lot of people can't handle it. And they see horror stories, they see events that you couldn’t see in a movie — nobody would believe it," Trump said.

Social media quickly lit up with anger as reports of Trump's remarks hit Twitter.

His comment, made in a room full of veterans, cannot be ignored.

Trump's words demonstrate a serious misunderstanding of the issues that affect veterans. They also represent a harmful attitude about how to deal with PTSD and depression, one that mental health professionals and activists have been trying to correct for years.

To be fair, Trump's full comments were made in support of providing more health care of veterans — not less. He even proposed that the government should pay for the health care of all veterans, not just at Veterans Affairs locations, but at any hospital.

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

Roughly 5% of all U.S. troops have been diagnosed with PTSD.

The implication that veterans who die by suicide or suffer from mental health problems are simply not "strong" or "can't handle it" is not only inaccurate but reinforces a dangerous, life-threatening attitude toward mental health.

PTSD diagnoses are nearly double that for veterans who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and those numbers only account for the veterans who have received treatment. Like many mental health issues, PTSD is stigmatized and often goes unreported or untreated, which means an unknown number of veterans could be suffering silently, afraid to ask for the treatment they need, for fear of being perceived as weak.

For those who do seek help, researchers have found that the suggestion to "toughen up" only increases cases of depression. PTSD is a real mental health disorder that affects millions every year, not just veterans.

Jesus Bocanegra, 24, a PTSD sufferer who had to drop out of college because of his nervousness in large crowds. Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images.

Furthermore, Trump's implication that veterans who die from suicide because they're weak is, effectively, pouring a gallon of gasoline on top of the already destructive fire of toxic masculinity.

In simple terms, toxic masculinity is the socially constructed idea that being a "man" means being tough and unemotional, or even violent and sexually aggressive.

"Toughness" has also been a key part of the Trump campaign:

From a very early age, boys are taught that being emotional means being weak. The ripple effects of that lesson are numerous and include a dramatically higher rate of suicide among men than women.

To say that suicidal veterans are not strong or that PTSD only affects those who "can't handle" service doesn't help anyone, and it could hurt a whole lot more.

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images.

Anyone seeking the role of commander in chief, though, should understand and empathize with the very real repercussions of putting your life on the line for your country and be deliberate in the way he or she talks about it.

Trump prides himself on not being politically correct, but there are very real repercussions for talking about PTSD in a politically incorrect way. Despite his good intentions to provide more mental health support to veterans, Trump's disregard for the way mental health professionals and advocates have worked for years to correct the misinformation and stigmatization of PTSD and depression shows a level of flippancy towards an important issue that a commander in chief cannot afford.

True

When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."

You may never have heard of President and CEO of the Black Women's Health Imperative (BWHI) Linda Goler Blount, but for over 25 years, she's been doing the arduous and yet vital work of assuring that Black women achieve health equity and reproductive justice.

Sometimes working behind the scenes securing funding, and other times in front of the cameras or on Capitol Hill fighting what can feel like a Sisyphean feat to move her organization forward in its mission. Blount is resolute in her battle against two of the greatest risk factors to the health of Black women are racism and gender discrimination.

UP: What are some of the biggest challenges facing Black women today -- vaccine hesitancy, preventative health, maternal mortality, diet, stress… etc?

LB: Stress is the number one health issue for Black women. Obesity-related syndromes such as hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease have their roots in stress -- and microaggressions trigger stress. We know there's a causal relationship between stress and weight. Black women have about 15% more cortisol in their bloodstream than white women. It changes their metabolism. If you give Black women and white women the same low-fat diet, Black women will lose weight more slowly and if both groups eat a high-fat diet, Black women will gain weight more quickly. We can see this in the DNA level. So, we focus our programs on asking women how they feel about being a Black woman in this environment at this moment. Because if we don't understand that and more importantly, if providers, policymakers, and corporate leaders don't understand that, then we're not going to make the kind of progress we need to improve health outcomes for Black women. And equity is a long way off.


Keep Reading Show less
True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!