My new novel Grunt Life is about to hit the streets on April 29th and I wanted to make something clear about PTSD. The book's characters and plot is steeped in the realities of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, suicide, and depression. The publisher was worried when I turned in the manuscript. And I get that. But then again, how many authors out there have my military credentials. As a military man with 30 years service and combat deployments, I know about PTSD first hand.
Still, it is a heavy issue and might turn some off. Despite that, I wanted it to be a central theme to Grunt Life. Not only am I trying to make readers understand what it's like to have PTSD, but I'm also turning PTSD sufferers into heroes. Too often they think themselves the opposite. This is where I show them how they really are worth it and can save the planet, if only between the pages of Grunt Life.
Here are some facts about PTSD from the Veteran's Administration:
Here are some facts (based on the U.S.):
- About 7 or 8 out of every 100 people (or 7-8% of the population) will have PTSD at some point in their lives.
- About 5.2 million adults have PTSD during a given year. This is only a small portion of those who have gone through a trauma.
- Women are more likely than men to develop PTSD. About 10% of women develop PTSD sometime in their lives compared with 5% of men.
Experts think PTSD occurs:
- In about 11-20% of Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars (Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom), or in the range of 11-20 Veterans out of 100 who served in OEF/OIF.
- In as many as 10% of Gulf War (Desert Storm) Veterans, or in 10 Gulf War Veterans out of 100.
- In about 30% of Vietnam Veterans, or about 30 out of 100 Vietnam Veterans.
Many PTSD sufferers, like the characters in my book, can see no way clear of their disorder and often take their own lives. This excerpt from Forbes Magazine is sobering.
Almost once an hour – every 65 minutes to be precise – a military veteran commits suicide, says a new investigation by the Department of Veterans Affairs. By far the most extensive study of veteran suicides ever conducted, the report, issued Friday, examined suicide data from 1999 to 2010.
The data was then compared with a previous investigation – primarily an estimation – that had been conducted over the same time period, and had found a suicide rate of 18 per day.
Many of these suicides involve older veterans; 69 percent of the suicides recorded were by veterans age 50 and older. But another way to look at this is that 31 percent of these suicides were by veterans 49 and younger. In other words,by men in the prime of life.
And then there are the shockingly common active duty suicides. Just two weeks ago, the military released data showing that suicides among those on active duty hit a record high in 2012. There were 349 suicides among active duty personnel – almost one a day. That means there are now more suicides among active duty soldiers than there are combat deaths.
I want to make it clear that Grunt Life is a work of fiction. I chose to have PTSD as a central theme because I see so many war books out there who won't touch it. Well, I'm trying to touch it. If my only success is to bring more attention to it then good. Know it's out there. Know it's for real. And if you get the chance, see what you can do to help, even if it's just to tell a veteran or service member to have a great day.
The popular website Pop Cults focused heavily into the PTSD aspects with an absolutely glowing review of the book.
'With Grunt Life, I feel like Ochse was striving to write the kind of military narrative that Heinlein or Haldeman would have written. I am a huge fan of both authors, and Ochse is well on his way tojoining their ranks, but I don’t think he is quite there. He is close, and he is on the right track — heck, he even acknowledges Haldeman at the end of the book. Ochse goes beyond the normal chaos of combat and asks of the tough questions that we, as a greater society, are just starting to ask. In this novel, he addresses one of the biggest killers of our veterans these days: suicide. While the taking of one’s life has been addressed before, Ochse embraces it and integrates it into his story without making it the focus of the book or glorifying it. The book starts out with a suicide attempt, but it isn’t for the reasons that you would expect. Ochse was willing to get past the Hollywood and mainstream media explanations of military suicide and try to address some of the real reasons why veterans would be willing to end their lives. This is a subject that needs to be addressed openly and honestly, and Ochse was brave enough to risk turning some readers off to do it. I think that many of the readers who do get turned off by his frank observations on this subject might feel that way because it hits way too close to home. I don’t want this to sound like a challenge, but for some folks out there, this might be the book that makes them stop and think.'
|Mat Best (Former Army Ranger)|
Mat Best of MatBest11X wrote an article about PTSD which I'd like to share here. Known for his youtube comedy and parody videos about special operations forces, he provides an inside view of PTSD that should be shared with everyone.
One last thing. The military isn't the only group with PTSD sufferers. Police and fire fighters, as well as rape victims and victims of sexual abuse have a very high rate of PTSD as well. You could literally spend your day interacting with PTSD sufferers and not even know it.
So at the very least, treat everyone with respect.
And that woman in the middle of road rage or the guy not moving fast enough for you in the line you're in, they might be having a hard time of it so maybe think about treating them that way.