SOUTH HAVEN — Linda Teeter of South Haven remembers the emotional struggles her dad dealt with after coming home from World War II. It has prompted her and other members of the South Haven American Legion Women’s Auxiliary to sponsor a new support group for spouses and family members of veterans experiencing post- traumatic stress disorder.
“My father was in World War II,” Teeter said. “I now know that he struggled with PTSD when he returned from the war.”
Outwardly her dad seemed fine – he was married with children, held down a good-paying job for 37 years and owned his own home. But emotionally, he seemed tormented.
“He looked and seemed perfectly normal, but there were times when all the effects of the PTSD would come out,” Teeter recalled. “His happy place was when he fished. Then he could get away from al the symptoms. I wish that PTSD had been identified then and there had been resources for veterans and their families to identify PTSD and deal with the effects.”
The first meeting for the Spouses & Family Members of Veterans Struggling with PTSD will be at 6:30 p.m. next Tuesday at the Church of the Epiphany, 410 Erie St. Fr. Michael Ryan, pastor of the church, will facilitate the meeting.
“The main goal (of the group) is to provide a loving place for spouses and family members to share and talk together,” explained Teeter, a member of the American Legion Post 49 Women’s Auxiliary.
The formation of the group has been talked about for quite a while, Teeter said.
At the initial meeting, the group will decide the format, how often to meet, and if they would like outside professional involvement. There is no cost to attend.
“Members of the South Haven American Legion Ladies Auxiliary identified this need some time ago,” Teeter said. “We worked together to get this first gathering together and with Fr. Michael Ryan’s assistance to serve as the facilitator for first meeting.” Ryan is the pastor at Epiphany Episcopal church.
PTSD affects 3 percent of the U.S. adult population – about nine million individuals, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. About 37 percent of those diagnosed are classified as having severe symptoms. Women are significantly more likely to experience PTSD than men.
Traumatic events – such as an accident, assault, military combat or natural disaster – can have lasting effects on a person’s mental health. While many people will have short-term responses to life-threatening events, some will develop longer-term symptoms that can lead to a diagnosis of PTSD. Symptoms often co-exist with other conditions such as substance use disorders, depression and anxiety.