Invisible wounds of war battled with Airman’s help

F.E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE – Airmen try to voice their injuries after returning home from combat. With the help of Senior Airman Erika Peralta, 90th Medical Group mental health technician, healing from these invisible wounds is more likely.

“The Invisible Wound Program is in place to look at the psychological wounds from warfare and to see what programs can be opened for their care,” said Vernale.

Wounds are considered invisible when they are not tangible, and approximately 18.5 percent of U.S. service members returning from combat suffer with wounds such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and depression.

“Receiving help in the mental health facility is important because you can see the physical injuries but mental pain is not as visible,” said Peralta. “I get to be there to help them.”

Not only is seeking mental health treatment important, but the consequences of the wound not being treated can be more detrimental than not treating a physical wound.

“As symptoms become worse without treatment they begin to spiral and can result in suicidal ideations,” said Maj. Michael Vernale, 90th Medical Group mental health element chief.

Airmen on F.E. Warren Air Force Base should seek treatment before the situation spirals out of control.

One of the biggest fears Airmen have about seeking mental health is that it will result in a discharge. 98 percent of Airmen in mental health return to active duty. Providers are here to help with any mental illness, including invisible wounds.

The best way to ensure Airmen receive the proper care is by educating commanders, supervisors and fellow Airmen on the warning signs of invisible wounds.

“The emotional wounds may be invisible, but the behavioral wounds, such as diet changes and bad hygiene, will appear,” said Vernale. “If someone’s behavior begins to spiral, talk to them.”

The biggest take away from the mental health facility is to not be afraid and to seek help. There are multiple outlets for mental care, you just have to ask.

For more information or to seek treatment at the mental health clinic, call (307) 773-2998.          

TOP: Senior Airman Erika Peralta, 90th Medical Group mental health technician, poses for a photo at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Nov. 15. Peralta makes the initial contact with patients in order to help them heal from invisible wounds. Photo by Airman 1st Class Abbigayle Wagner

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