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Invictus 2016: Symposium on The Invisible Wounds of War

yesterday, I said that I would discuss more about the symposium on the invisible wounds of war. This forum was hosted by the George W. Bush Institute and brought together policymakers, competitors, experts from the medical and healthcare profession, caregivers, Prince Harry and Former President Bush.

The four-hour event utilized an international perspective on the obstacles faced by service members dealing with these invisible wounds and worked to come up with viable solutions to assist those overcoming them.

The symposium was a candid discussion of the importance of acknowledging not just the physical wounds of war, but those which go unseen; those wounds such as Post Traumatic stress Disorder, traumatic brain injury and other psychological issues such as anxiety and depression.

Soldiers must go through some of the most difficult, challenging training out there. They must be physically and mentally tough. However it is this toughness which makes it hard to spot or even acknowledge these mental health issues. And for those competing in these games, a challenge which goes unrecognized.

Paul Warren, the Australian Invictus Games Team Captain said: “With my fighting background, I never thought I would be in a position to question my mental stability.”

Prince Harry, Former President Bush and the former First Lady started the conversation by acknowledging that our society must do away with the stigmas associated with mental health and psychological issues. This is the only way a solution might be found. During the discussion, both Prince Harry and President Bush stated that physical wounds aren’t addressed in the same manner as invisible wounds.

Prince Harry mentioned what was accomplished at the 2014 Invictus Games by saying: “Invictus 2014 smashed stigma on visible injuries. This year can do the same on invisible injuries.”

Next, competitors and caregivers discussed those obstacles they faced when seeking care for their condition. They not only face barriers such as stereotypes and stigmatization in society, but those responsible for their care must deal with the stress that comes along with caring for them.

Sgt. Israel Del Toro was burned over 80% of his body and was given a 15% chance to survive after he suffered an IED blast in Afghanistan in 2005. When speaking on the effect his injuries had, he said: “It’s harder on the families because they are the ones that are with you every day.”

Policymakers and the medical experts in attendance offered up insights about the need for improving the diagnostics for these mental health wounds in order to provide a more thorough understanding of these illnesses. They stressed individualized care is critical and more support for caregivers must be improved upon as well.