Why I #AmWriting About PTSD

I was recently chatting online with some people about my work in progress, The Soldier’s Wife. I was telling them about my plans for the characters, and we started talking about my plans for Uriah. In the Bible, Uriah is a soldier. In my novel, he becomes Ryan, a special forces member who has come back from a recent deployment not quite himself. He’s struggling with PTSD, which is one of the contributing factors to the breakdown of his marriage to Barbara (Bathsheba).

One of the people raised this question: why give Ryan PTSD? It’s a good question. Here’s why.

PTSD, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, is becoming very prevalent in our society. Here are some statistics, courtesy PTSD United:

  • 8% of Americans have PTSD at any given time. That’s over 24 million people.
  • The Veterans’ Administration (VA) estimates that up to 20% of Operation Enduring Freedom veterans suffer from PTSD. That’s 400,000 soldiers.
  • In the past year, the number of diagnosed cases in the military jumped fifty percent–and that’s just the diagnosed cases.

If those statistics aren’t sobering enough, here are a few others from the VA:

  • In 2014, 18% of all adult suicides in the United States were military veterans.
  • That is an increase of 32% since 2001.
  • The increase of female veteran suicide rates is an even more alarming 85.2%.

Unfortunately, our society doesn’t like to talk about the “ugly” side of war. It’s only been in the recent past that we have begun to truly discuss and learn about the atrocities of the Vietnam War (and if you don’t know much about the war, I highly recommend Ken Burns’ documentary).

It’s not a disservice to Uriah to give his modern counterpart PTSD. PTSD is a very real struggle that many of our military (and, let’s face it, non-military) families face every day. Simply “not talking about it” won’t make it go away.

Aside from calling attention to the issue, I think including it also gives more potential depth to the characters. We really must think about the motives that everyone has for their behavior (from David to Uriah to Bathsheba), and how each bear their own responsibility for everything that is to come.

There’s no doubt Uriah was a good soldier. He wanted to stay with his men. But what kind of husband does that make him? Well, that’s one of the things that I explore in The Soldier’s Wife.

What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear them!

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