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.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Dustin Nelson, sergeant major, Wounded Warrior Battalion-East, meets with different booths raising awareness for post-traumatic stress disorder during the Lin Weidow Memorial, Camp Lejeune, N.C., May 24, 2018. Members of WWBn-E memorialized a cherished colleague, known for her outstanding dedication in helping recovering service members and having a positive impact on her peers.
.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Dustin Nelson, sergeant major, Wounded Warrior Battalion-East, meets with different booths raising awareness for post-traumatic stress disorder during the Lin Weidow Memorial, Camp Lejeune, N.C., May 24, 2018. Members of WWBn-E memorialized a cherished colleague, known for her outstanding dedication in helping recovering service members and having a positive impact on her peers. (Ashley Gomez/Marine Corps)

“To this day we still treat those invisible wounds differently than we treat visible ones. If you broke your wrist you go to the doctor. Why is it that we have the mentality of since I can’t see the issue that it is somehow taboo or not deserving of proper treatment?”

— retired Sgt. Kyle J. White, Medal of Honor recipient

“I always say this — al-Qaida, Taliban — anyone that has ever fought was as strong or as deadly as my own mental demons.”

— retired Capt. Florent Groberg, Medal of Honor recipient

Post-traumatic stress can happen to anyone and impacts Americans of all ages, genders and backgrounds. For our active-duty service members, veterans and their families, it is all too common. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, 20% of those who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom have reported PTS in a given year and our grave reality is that an estimated 20 or more veterans die by suicide every day. That is one almost every 80 minutes.

For so many, the fight doesn’t stop upon the return to American soil or civilian life. In fact, for those entering rehabilitation for injuries or dealing with invisible mental wounds, the battle is only just beginning. These struggles impact not only the lives of our service members, but also the family and friends who stand beside them.

Last month our organizations came together to host a candid and honest conversation on PTS and were joined by Medal of Honor recipients retired Capt. Florent Groberg and retired Sgt. Kyle White, and ABC’s Kyra Phillips to discuss how it has impacted their lives and the lives of their loved ones, the bravery of their loved ones who spoke up and encouraged treatment, and how mental health struggles are perceived today.

Today, one of the biggest hurdles is simply asking for help. The subject of mental health is often considered to be taboo, yet so many in the military community suffer from PTS and mental health challenges. In fact, the National Council for Mental Wellbeing reports less than 50% of veterans facing mental health challenges receive the treatment they need.

These grave statistics should shock you. Every single number represents a son or daughter, a parent or sibling, or a loved one or dear friend, and as civilians, we owe a great debt to our service members and their families; one we may never be able to repay.

As leaders from organizations advocating for military service members, veterans and their families, we have seen firsthand the impact of mental health struggles and know how important it is to fight to destigmatize the conversation around PTS. We urge Americans to come together from across the political aisle, across sectors, across corporations, and across the country, as one collective voice to effect change.

No single entity or organization alone can reverse PTS, and we all have a role to play. Volunteer locally or make a donation to a nonprofit you trust. Check in with your loved ones and friends and listen. Have that difficult conversation. Learn more about the issue and how you can help someone struggling with mental health issues.

If we can get just one person to seek help, we have made a difference. Today, we want our military community to know they are not alone and their wounds, whether mental or physical, are recognized.

To learn how you can join the discussion, visit https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org

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