In a recent interview at the Retired American Warriors PAC, Donald Trump appeared to imply that combat veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) were not “strong” and “can’t handle” the dangerous and harrowing environment of war.
Trump has come under fire for his comments from veterans and mental health advocates alike, as they feel the statement is another in a sea of myths that stigmatize veterans with mental health issues. Military records indicate that only 1 in 6 of veterans who commit suicide had been previously deployed to combat, while studies show that people such as veterans suffering from PTSD who think about committing suicide more often are actually more tolerable to emotional and physical pain.
Students at the University of Denver also see Trump’s comments as ignorant. Kayli Short, a first-year biology major, called his words, “quite offensive in many ways, not only to families who have loved ones who have served, but also to people who other mental disabilities as well.”
Short saw the problem with Trump’s opinion as being one of questioning the legitimacy of mental health issues in former soldiers. “The brain is an organ too, and yes, it can get sick. To say that veterans that have fought for our country are weak for being sick is wrong.” She added that the same goes for veterans were never deployed, noting that “there’s horror in war, every single day. Even when you’re not on the front lines and never have been.”
Short’s statements highlight an important aspect of the truth about military suicide, one often overlooked when discussing veterans’ mental health. Those not deployed to combat are actually more inclined to give into suicidal urges, as more than 80% of veterans who commit suicide never saw direct combat action.
Short was the only student who saw fallacies in Trump’s words. Elizabeth Farwell, a first-year masters student in mathematics, said Trump’s words “didn’t make any sense.” “It takes a lot of courage and strength to be even just a veteran in general. I think anyone that has PTSD should be able to have help without being called weak,” Farwell stated.
Another student, graduate student in religious studies and international intercommunications Kara Roberts, said that “there’s a lot of research that shows people have issues coming back from war. It’s our job as a nation to protect these people, not criticize them.”
“I think [Trump] adds to the stigma that any veteran who has PTSD is weak, and that makes it harder for them to seek help,” Roberts continued. “I basically think he doesn’t understand what he’s talking about.”
Getting help has been a major issue for veterans suffering from PTSD, as they often feel weak for not adjusting to life during or after war and/or service. The disorder is one that studies show can be effectively treated with behavioral therapy, and
by adding to the mental hurdles that veterans had to overcome to seek this help, many feel Mr. Trump is only making matters worse for the last people who need any more struggle in their lives.