Soldiers struggle with mental illness

Tuesday, May 20th 2008, 5:17 pm
By: News 9

By Melissa Maynarich, NEWS 9  

As Memorial Day approaches and we honor those troops who have fallen, veteran advocates say, we also need to honor those who've recently returned from overseas.

And that's because many of those men and women now suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Thus, better support needs to be in place to tackle mental illness.

In combat, there are times many troops wish they could forget. While escorting convoys through Iraq, Specialist Joe Collins saw, maybe, too much.

"There were some instances I had to deal with," Collins said. "It's kind of difficult for me to be specific. I don't really like to...I'm still kind of dealing with it on a day to day basis."

Since Collins' return, he's suffered from depression, has trouble sleeping, trouble remembering things, paranoid thoughts, severe headaches and anxiety.

"I would wake up at my house and I would think that I was still overseas," Collins said. "It would take me a minute to realize I was home. I would be completely drenched in sweat. My heart would be racing."

And Collins is only one of the 300,000 troops who have come back from Iraq and Afghanistan with Post Traumatic Stress or major depression, according to the latest RAND corporation study. And right now, Collin's is travelling to San Antonio for a military ordered medical checkup. He said since he's returned from war, he owes his life to the support of his mother.

Local advocate, and veteran himself, Ed Pulido said the system needs improvement.

"Through the Vietnam Era and those vets, a lot of them ended up becoming homeless, had health and human service issues that they needed organizations to support them," Pulido said.

Pulido said, just as troops are called to action overseas, a call to action to set up a working support system for those returning home in metropolitan and rural areas is necessary. Collins agrees.

"A lot of this stuff needs to be let out in the open and it it's not said then more people are just going to fall through the cracks or not be taken care of," Collins said.

Meanwhile, Collins continues to struggle. But he knows recovery is in his reach.

If you or someone you know needs help, you can contact the Veterans' Families United Foundation in Oklahoma City.