Shedding Light on Invisible Wounds

  • Published
  • By Daria Flowers
  • Air Force Wounded Warrior Program

June is National PTSD Awareness Month, an opportunity to talk about the signs and symptoms of the disorder, with the goal of reducing stigma and encouraging help-seeking. According to the National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), over 7.7 million Americans over the age of 18 suffer from PTSD. As stated by the National Institute of Mental Health, PTSD is a mental health disorder that develops in individuals who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event like, combat, a natural disaster, an accident, abuse, or assault.

Following a traumatic event, many individuals have a difficult time returning to their old self and will experience symptoms such as feeling on edge, nightmares and difficulty sleeping, anxiety, or experience flashbacks where they feel they are reliving the event. However, because PTSD is a stratified condition, different individuals can display different symptoms and can show up in different time periods. These symptoms can make it difficult for an individual’s day-to-day function.

The more you understand the signs and symptoms of PTSD the more likely you are to provide a healthy and conducive environment for the individual to work through the symptoms that they are having,” said Armando Franco, AFW2 Wellness and Resiliency team lead.

PTSD effects up to 20% of veterans which is a reminder that Invisible Wounds are real and are as severe as visible wounds. For many, the symptoms do not show up right away and may take months, or longer, to appear. Many may be hesitant to open up about their diagnosis as they worry that others may not understand what they are experiencing. However, there are several resources available for individuals who have PTSD, as well as, individuals who would like to educate themselves on the disorder. These include those who have a family member, friend, or colleague who have been diagnosed.

While mobile applications are not a replacement for in-person help, there are several that cover resources for managing PTSD, as well as educating. Some include T2MoodTracker, Lifearmor, Dream Ez, Mindfulness Coach, Concussion Coach, and PTSD Coach. These mobile apps can offer additional guidance in learning and practicing mindfulness, coping strategies, and other resources to manage the stresses of daily life with PTSD.

When living with PTSD, having a supportive community who is knowledgeable about the topic can also be beneficial to the individual.  If something feels off, or you witness unusual behavior, it is important to speak up or talk to someone. In addition, knowing one’s triggers first-hand is equally important. 

“A lot of people suffer from, or have been in traumatic situations, and they don’t understand what’s going on. Talking about it, attending workshops, and reading about it does help a lot because it is like a self-education portal,” Armando said.

Throughout the month of June, AFW2 will host daily virtual socials on Facebook to bring awareness and reduce the stigma of PTSD. Visit the program’s Facebook page to hear stories of resiliency and engage in wellness and activities hosted by Air Force Wounded Warriors. For additional information, to refer an Airman, or learn more about the program, visit for additional information and resources.