At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, a ceasefire was called between the Allied Forces and Germany. That’s the origin of the Nov. 11 date for Veterans Day. It was then called Armistice Day, and President Woodrow Wilson declared it a time to honor those who died in what was called the “war to end all wars.”
World War I wasn’t the last war; millions of Americans have served in many wars since. But it did mark the beginning of a recognition that soldiers were returning home from battle with debilitating symptoms that weren’t only physical but psychological as well.
Soldiers had coined the term “shell shock” for a condition that caused a range of symptoms, from shaking, headaches, dizziness, confusion, memory loss and sleep disorders. Doctors thought the condition may be caused by proximity to an explosion, but soon they discovered that some soldiers presented with the same symptoms who were not near explosives.
While treatment for trauma has come a long way, soldiers who return home suffering from PTSD, anxiety, depression and other mental health conditions remains alarmingly high a century later.
A snapshot of the most recent data shows the veteran suicide rate is down from 2020, but it has generally been on the rise since 2011 and is still significantly higher than the rate for the general population. The percentage of veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health issues is also higher than that of the rest of the United States.
While there has been a consistent flow of legislation over the past 25 years to support veterans who need mental health support, experts say there is quite a bit that still needs to be done to “plug the holes” where support is lacking. Most of it is about easing the restrictions on the kind of mental health support veterans can access and where.