JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - For many, the Memorial Day weekend means fun in the sun or relaxation, but for some veterans it can be an agonizing time of remembering loss.
“I’m glad I’m here during this time of year, during the holiday,” said Ricky Smith.
The U.S. Army veteran is in residential treatment at the Jackson V.A. for Chronic PTSD.
Memorial Day weekend has been tough over the years for the Vietnam era Veteran who previously isolated himself and re-lived bad memories.
“I’m glad I’m up here and around fellow veterans so this year won’t be as hard,” said Smith. “When I’m not here I would go to my father’s grave and watch TV and that really depressed me.”
Smith’s father was a World War II veteran. He didn’t seek therapy for PTSD and depression for more than 20 years after his discharge.
“I suffered for a long time without any help thinking I was normal,” said the disabled veteran. “You know I was just normally mean and angry all the time.”
The 62-year-old’s doctor prescribed treatment and medication and now his life has changed.
“Anniversaries like this are common triggers for things like depression,” said V.A. psychologist Dr. Elizabeth Nosen.
The PTSD program manager said the Memorial Day holiday can cause veterans to remember painful experiences, those lost during service and have increased bad dreams.
The V.A. treats 4,000 veterans with PTSD.
“It pays to pay a little bit of extra attention to the veterans in our lives around this time. So if you know a veteran reach out and, just see how they’re doing, say hey,” said Nosen. “Ask them straight up how they’re feeling. Be a listening ear and help connect then to services. If they’re acutely suicidal bring them in to the closet ER. If they’re just feeling down and depressed, get them into the V.A. here. We can get them treatment."
“Therapy does work and for people that’s out there suffering with alcohol, drugs, depression, gambling addiction, any kind of addiction, the V.A. has resources here to help,” added Smith, who said he is trying to be an example for his brother who has schizophrenia.
The Veteran Crisis Line is 1-800-273-8255 and is available 24 hours a day.