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Seeking Help for Her Soldier Son With PTSD

Ms. Vicki

Dear Ms. Vicki,

I'm a mother living with my youngest son, who has PTSD and severe mood swings.

His angry outbursts have caused him to repeatedly break laptop computers. He has trouble even driving in traffic at times. He refuses to get help and is getting out of the Army on Nov. 1.

He has had six deployments between his time in the Marine Corps and his time in the Army. He served for 16 years and made it to staff sergeant but, after his last deployment, he said he couldn't handle having to deploy again.

The Army is using a verbal outburst he once made to force him out with an honorable discharge.

I know the history from his childhood has added to his problems. Also, his father -- my first husband -- died in 2006, at the same time that a bomb went off near my son during a deployment. My son saw a child killed during that same deployment.

My son is so lonely, and he also has some minor learning problems. He won't get help for the same reasons lots of men give. He thinks needing help means he lacks willpower and is weak.

It doesn't help that he thinks his older brother, who served for four years, scammed the government by accepting VA disability pay. My younger son thinks his older brother made up the injuries because he never liked manual labor.

I moved in with my son after I got divorced from my second husband. My son asked me to live with him because no one else wants him around.

My ex-husband left me because he said my two military sons made his PTSD from Vietnam come back to the surface. My ex-husband kicked me out of the home my dead husband paid for and turned everyone in the family who I thought would be there against us. All I have now are my sons.

I feel hopeless, and I can't get support in this small town because the few people I meet aren't military. I'm lost and getting more and more depressed.

I'm the only one my son will listen to, and I fear for him. I live with him, and so I see the mood swings and depression that come and go.

I'm also scared that if he does get help, they will put him in a medical ward and drug him. So far, he has played down his symptoms.

How can they be so blind to someone who really needs help? Does he have to end up in a hospital, in jail or homeless before they will see how badly he needs help?

I lost everything, and I'm trying to work for minimum wage in a school lunchroom after 10 years of not working. I have no means to help my son, no contacts, no family, no friends and no ministry that understands us here.

My son can't make friends on his own either. He has always had trouble making friends, but was able sooner or later to get out and try. Now it's not possible for him to even try.

If I died, he would lose it. We have only each other. I feel hopeless, and that makes me very sad. I have been struggling now to even keep my faith.

I feel like the worst mom in the world. My oldest son hates me, and he treats my youngest like dirt. I wish veterans could band together and find each other and reach out in the communities to the newest ones who are getting out. My son doesn't have any men in his life.

-- Lost Mom

Dear Lost Mom,

My heart is saddened by your story. I am just as concerned about you as I am both of your sons. Your whole family, including you, is hurting.

There is help for both of your sons, but you are right -- we can't make them accept the help.

Your youngest son sounds like a lot of people with mental health problems who don't want to seek help. They fear they will be perceived as weak or as having a lack of willpower, even though we all know this is not true.

They fear they will lose their career or security clearance, and they feel shame and stigmatized.

In the meantime, the problem keeps getting worse. Sadly, something usually happens to draw attention to the person with the problem before they will get help.

There are two things I'd like to advise you to do. First, before your youngest son leaves the military, he will attend what I will call an exit brief and he will see a VA representative. You need to encourage him to tell them the truth about what he is feeling and experiencing. He deserves any VA disability money that he will receive, and receiving that money is not something he should be embarrassed to do. But he has to tell the truth.

Second, contact the stress hotline for support. They will be able to give you some insight about your son, as well as resources for both of you and professional guidance. Call the Defense Centers of Excellence 24/7 at 866-966-1020. You can talk to someone there via live chat on their website.

-- Ms. Vicki

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Contributor

Ms. Vicki is a native of Dallas, has been the Dear Abby for the military community since her column began in 2005. A licensed therapist and licensed clinical social worker, Ms. Vicki holds a Master of Science in social work and a Master of Arts in clinical psychology.

Ms. Vicki appears regularly on Military.com and in the Fort Campbell Courier. Her column has also appeared in the Washington (D.C.) Times and in the Heidelberg (Germany) Post Herald. She has been featured on CNN, CBS, ABC and NBC.

Looking for advice about your military life? Email Ms. Vicki here. Find Ms. Vicki on Facebook here.  Find Ms. Vicki on Twitter here.

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