PTSD & Work: Curing Veteran Unemployment Helps Heal PTSD

How do PTSD and Unemployment go together?


You may have noticed the recent USA Today for the weekend of March 21st and 22nd.  Veteran unemployment is 11.2% See link at


America’s current Recession/Depression has “normal” umemployment  over 7% with some predicting general unemployment over 10% if the stimulus does not work.  (About the Stimulus: I am quite happy that Wisconsin food stamp recipients have received more food stamp money under the stimulus and that 45+ highways and roads will be improved as well.  If you have driven a Wisconsin road you know why this is good news. What does a theologian know about unemployment?  Enough to know that it is bad and enough to know that my BA in Economics was not enough to get me a real job after college!)


Back to PTSD: PTSD attacks our self worth.  For many of us, with or without PTSD, we gain all or a portion of our self worth from our jobs.  Frequently, people will decide if I am worthwhile only in terms of hearing what my job is.  If I am unable to work, by reason of disability, or unable to find work by reason of recession, my own self worth in the eyes of society is diminished.


Generally, in my experience, society does not care why I can’t work, they simply judge me for not being able to do so.  Part of my PTSD-Identity is to magnify that a thousand times.  Being out of work magnifies the isolation that PTSD imposes upon me.  This means that I am battered both inside and out due to unemployment and my spirit suffers for this.  If I get too isolated, I will kill myself and while I do it I will feel that society would rather be rid of me anyway.


This is particularly true with military PTSD.  We have been trained to not complain or talk about how we feel.  The PTSD feeds on this and we get worse, more symptomatic.


On the other hand, if I have a job, especially a job I either like and/or pays me well, then I have a reason to not get drunk or otherwise harm myself.  Indeed, I have a reason to live, to stay alive, and develop relationships.  Developing positive relationships reduces the damage of PTSD to our souls.  This reduces the isolation and the body count.


Thus, the more we can ensure that PTSD sufferers can get and keep jobs, the more rapid will be their healing.  This is true for military and/or civilian acquired PTSD.


What if I cannot get a job because the economy I have inherited is a disaster?  Then, if possible, one should volunteer.  Similar PTSD healing is derived from the volunteer experience as well.  Again, it gives me a good reason to take care of myself and live for another day.


For the utilitarians in the audience: Creating jobs for people means that we pay less welfare and the newly engaged worker pays taxes rather than absorbs our taxes. 


We can find meaning in our labor.  We ought to be allowed to perform it for reasonable wages.  Society would flourish and PTSD would be diminished.  And, our roads would be fixed!  For an encyclical on the Value of Human Labor, see Pope John Paul II’s Laborem Exercens, The Value of Work.


Lastly, a brief piece from on veteran unemployment compensation: 


Semper Pax, Dr. Z

Leave a Reply