Women on the front lines
Women are serving on the front lines as never before in our nationís history and unfortunately, this is creating challenges.
Of the 1.7 million troops deployed in support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, more than 190,000 (about 11 percent) are women. Women today make up a much larger percentage of veterans and active duty military members than in any previous wars. Approximately 180,000 women are serving in a war zone. Unlike past wars where women were not subject to actual combat, women deployed today serve on the front lines in combat zones. Women today experience many of the same traumatic stressors that men do in combat such as incoming fire from enemy artillery, rockets, mortars, sniper fire, and seeing others killed or wounded. Although men and women experience many of the same traumatic stressors, women report greater levels of distress than men do. Although post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) is the most common effect of military trauma associated with military sexual trauma (MST), women also suffer from depression, nightmares, sleeplessness, anger, and isolation. In many cases, this leads to the use of substances to deal with the realities faced in combat.
In 2007, the Department of Veteran Affairs conducted research and found that more and more women are reporting signs of mental health issues due to their combat experiences when they return home. Exposure to the severely injured, casualties, and heavy workloads all lead to severe emotional effects on female veterans. They are reporting these mental health issues at a higher rate than men who serve in the military. A large number of the women who report these emotional effects continue to have serious emotional and psychosocial problems that affect their everyday lives. Women have a greater risk for depression disorders and borderline personality disorders.
Women may also suffer from isolation when they return home from service. Women traumatized by war tend to isolate themselves when they return to civilian life due to their distrust of others. They may spend weeks unable to sleep with their partners, socialize, or even leave home.