Riverbend Awareness Project

Gunnery Sergeant Delatorre and Sergeant Nagl from the US Marines joined us to talk about PTSD and the power of being a true and trustworthy friend to those dealing with this mental health challenge. 

DSTRESS Line (24/7, Anonymous Marine-to-Marine phone and chat support service )

Military One Source

Show Notes

Gunnery Sergeant Delatorre and Sergeant Nagl from the US Marines joined us to talk about PTSD and the power of being a true and trustworthy friend to those dealing with this mental health challenge. 
DSTRESS Line (24/7, Anonymous Marine-to-Marine phone and chat support service )
Military One Source

What is Riverbend Awareness Project?

The Riverbend Awareness Project brings you a new conversation each month about important causes and issues in our community. Every month of 2024 we will sit down and have a conversation with a professional from our community about significant issues like heart health, Alzheimer’s, literacy, and more. We’ll then share that conversation with you on the Riverbend Awareness Project Podcast, with the goal of sharing resources, and information that will help you have a better understanding of the particular problems, and solutions, associated with each topic.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this podcast episode are solely those of the individuals participating and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of Riverbend Media Group or the Riverbend Awareness Project, its affiliates, or its employees. It is important to note that the discussion presented is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Listeners are encouraged to consult with qualified health care professionals for any medical concerns or decisions. The Riverbend Awareness Project is a product of Riverbend Media Group.

Melissa: Hi. This is Melissa.

Emma: And this is Emma.

Melissa: Welcome to the Riverbend Awareness Project. Each month, we learn about important nationwide topics that also affect our community.

Emma: This month, we're learning about PTSD. And today, we have Sergeant Nagl and Gunnery Sergeant Delatorre from the Marine Corps joining us.

Melissa: Could you guys introduce yourself?

GySgt. Delatorre: My name is Gunnery Sergeant Delatorre. I'm the local United States Marine Corps recruiter here in Idaho Falls.

Sgt. Nagl: My name is Sergeant Nagl, and I am also the local marine corps recruiter here at Idaho Falls.

Melissa: Awesome. Thank you guys so much for coming in today.

Emma: So the first question that we wanted to ask you today was how would you define PTSD?

Sgt. Nagl: Personally, from my standpoint, PTSD is defined as a... It's kind of a traumatic response. So something— it's not necessarily related to combat. Right?

So it could be anything from childhood trauma all the way up to, you know, going on later on down the road, something traumatic happens. And it kind of... It's almost like a haunting that stays in your mind, if that makes sense, and it can either affect your lifestyle incredibly, or it could be something very small.

Melissa: How can someone know if they have PTSD?

Sgt. Nagl: PTSD could be something that you don't necessarily know you have, but you could also know that you have it at the same time, if that really makes sense.

What I mean by that is— so, there could be... If you had trauma growing up through life or you had trauma in the service, anywhere at all, really, it doesn't matter if you're in the service or not. There could be something that happened that was so traumatic to you that it just kinda stays with you, I guess, is how you would be able to say that you have it, but you don't necessarily know you would have it unless you really get it, like, documented, or you get diagnosed with it.

Emma: How— what are some ways that PTSD can affect somebody's mental and emotional health?

Sgt. Nagl: I have a couple of friends that were unfortunately in the withdraw of Afghanistan and the Kabul airport. It affects them quite a lot with their daily routine. Then again, that was an extremely terrible and traumatic experience for them. And they're getting help, thank God, but it was... When they came back, it was very heartbreaking to see the kind of person that they became. Because it was... Like, all the things they saw, it just wasn't like, they it was a completely different person.

It was almost a shell of a body. So, yeah, that's all I got for that one. Sorry for bringing the mood down, guys.

Melissa: No, I mean, it's a very serious topic. And I was just trying to, like, think about how hard that would be for someone who cares about that person to see that, and then also just, like, that person having to go through that.

Sgt. Nagl: Yeah. It's extremely tough on both ends. So me, I was never at the airport. But when when they came home, the the biggest thing was trying to have them not only open up to us, because I think the best start for somebody who believes they have it or something is bugging them in a way that completely, like, almost ruins their lifestyle in a sense.

The best opening to that is to be able to talk to your friends about it. Okay? And so then once you're able to just kinda open up the door and talk about it, then it brings on, like, "okay. Maybe I should go talk to somebody who's certified in this, and maybe they could be able to help me out with it." But it's extremely heartbreaking for friends and family. It's terrible, it's terrifying to see them, because they're not who they used to be at all.

GySgt. Delatorre: And then kind of to add on that too, I had a buddy, we worked at a prison together, and this was outside in the outskirts of Afghanistan. And, you know, each night we would always hear, like, bombs and you just name it. And once we came back, his mood kinda like changed, and just me seeing him, 'cause we were together for at least 3 to 4 months, and his mood always changed.

And when we got down talking to it, I think he was just so used to just hearing, like, the bombs and everything from the background, from the mortars. And, you know, I wasn't experiencing none of that, but then we came to talking, and it wasn't until he finally went and got diagnosed with it. And it was just that he was so used to having everything ready to go, and he was just used to the loud noises. So when... once we came back to Okinawa, Japan and everything was quiet, it kind of just irritated him a little bit and just seeing that and seeing the the way his mood has changed, kind of like, gave me a good... I don't know how to say it, but it kinda gave me a good discreet on what to, like, see in others when they would come back.

Emma: So it sounds like it really... Having PTSD just really affects a lot of different aspects of your life. Because we've talked a little bit about relationships and just kind of on a more personal level, how that can really change things. Are there any other ways that you can think of that the PTSD has an effect on people?

Sgt. Nagl: To kinda broaden the spectrum here, I know it's not necessarily the best answer for it. PTSD affects just about everything that you can really think about with your life, is what I believe anyway.

Melissa: So, like, trying to think of an example. Because you mentioned, like, the noises. Like, he was used to the the loud noises, and then he got back and that was, like, a different world. I guess something that we would take for... Someone who doesn't have PTSD, like, maybe driving in traffic or, going to a sporting event. Something that we you know, how would, like, someone with PTSD maybe... How would that situation be different for them? Or could it be? I mean, it might not be, but it could be. Right?

Is that a bad question? I'm sorry.

Sgt. Nagl: No, would you be able to try to...

Melissa: Simplify the question?

Sgt. Nagl: Yeah, simplify a little bit?

Melissa: I guess, how to, like, how would someone who's facing PTSD... How would, like, their day look and maybe be different from someone who's not going through that?

Sgt. Nagl: So, it very well could be different, and it very well might not be different. It could be... The symptoms of it could be, like, suppressed, or it could be... It really just depends on the person and what their brain is kinda doing to either suppress it or act upon it, like the whole flight or flight response. So it really just kinda depends on the person, and how certain situations or certain traumatic responses are gonna be taken into account by their brain.

Emma: So... I don't know. Sergeant Nagl, like you were saying, it's a very heavy topic and something that's, like, very serious. But what are some things that you have seen or some things that... some ideas for how people who are facing PTSD, what are things that they can do to overcome that and to maybe find hope in their life?

Sgt. Nagl: The biggest thing, like I was saying earlier, is just to open up. And I know that's a lot harder to do than it is to say, especially if you're, like let me rephrase that.

So if you're in a friend group that you trust a lot, friends and family that you trust a lot— like, I consider Gunny here my brother. If you are with them and you trust them enough, you should be able to open up with them. However, sometimes with PTSD and stuff like that, it's not necessarily a thing. The biggest hurdle is just trying to open up to it.

And so then once you get an individual to be able to open up to you, then that's when, from what I've seen, they start becoming more open to be able to either get help or just try to do something that not necessarily suppresses the traumatic response, but does something to be able to cope with it in a sense. Like, going back on it with my buddy, when he opened up, it would the simplest thing ever, I would just take him fishing. Every every other week, we would just go fishing in this little pond. So, and that was enough for him to just be able to open up and then go get the help that he actually needed for it.

Melissa: Why do you guys think it is hard to open up or kind of can be intimidating to reach out for help?

Sgt. Nagl: Going on the, like, the service member side of it, there's always been a stigma. It's a little bit less now, but there's still going to be a stigma with it. Saying like going in for mental health means that you get kicked out. It's kind of a hot take. Like that is something that has happened, like, way in the past.

So with a lot of service members, I think that that still is kind of a stigma. But the thing is now, the Department of Defense, it's not just the Marine Corps, the Department of Defense has just revitalized mental health. And now that's not the case anymore. Now you're able to talk to, what's it called? The OSCAR?

GySgt. Delatorre: It's the OSCAR.

Sgt. Nagl: So the OSCAR is basically like a a therapist or a mental health specialist that you're able to talk to. The Department of Defense in general knows that people go through traumatic experiences. They go through the steps necessary to help you not only to make you successful in still continuing your service in the military, but being able to not necessarily cope, but I guess move past in a sense to be able to become successful in life after you're done with your service.

GySgt. Delatorre: So I think... For going back to the service member, I think it's really hard for us to open it up only because... I guess the world how it is today, they just look at service members and always automatically assume that we have PTSD.

When we do finally come forth with it, then we start hearing other people around you be like, "oh, see, I told you so," or "that's why we don't wanna join, because we're gonna have all these mental problems going on." I think that is why it's so hard for some service members to come forth and actually go and seek help.

Melissa: I hadn't thought about that before. Like, the bias— not the bias, but it's a misconception, right? That because when people say PTSD, they think people who've served. But like you said, anyone can have PTSD. It doesn't have to be someone who serves, but that we all face traumatic things in life. So thank you for sharing that.

Emma: So kind of along that note, what are some other misconceptions that people might have about PTSD?

GySgt. Delatorre: I would say that PTSD doesn't always have to be involving some sort of combat. And I think that's what some of the misconceptions from people that they automatically think. If you hear either, like, a bomb or gunshots, you automatically have it, let alone it can be from a car wreck. I think that's one of the biggest misconceptions, when people automatically think, oh, it has to be combat-related, when necessarily it does not.

Sgt. Nagl: That's probably the biggest misconception that we hear all the time is that it's just strictly some sort of combat-related syndrome.

Melissa: So thinking about misconceptions and misunderstandings, how can people be better educated about PTSD?

Sgt. Nagl: The the best thing is... I mean, we have the Internet now, you know? So I think the best thing right now to become, like, more informed about it, especially since it is PTSD awareness month, would be to take a few minutes, just sit down, and then look it up and read what it actually is.

And know that it doesn't just default to military service members. It defaults to everyone. You know, it goes all the way from humans— dogs have been known to have PTSD. It's, it's everyone. It's everything.

So yeah. One source I want you to, if you're able to put in, it's called, "DSTRESS."

Melissa: I'm gonna write this down. Okay. So I don't forget.

Sgt. Nagl: It's just the letter "D" and then "stress." And it's, there's a couple things. There should be a phone number that comes with it and then a website. That one's mainly for military members, because it's like a 24/7 hotline that any service member, past or present, can use it, and it's just... There's always a person on the end of the line for them.

Emma: So I guess we've talked about this a little bit, but just... Whether you have PTSD, or whether you know somebody who's struggling and you want to help them in some way, what are some ways that we can reach out and support each other?

Sgt. Nagl: The biggest thing, if you know somebody who has post-traumatic stress disorder, don't pry. That can hurt them quite a bit because it makes them feel like there's actually something wrong with them. Don't... Don't try to pry it.

Hang out with them. Talk to them. Try to get them to open up, but don't push it. They'll talk to you when they're ready. But the biggest thing is, like, you almost have to just let them open up to you.

Alright? And one big thing is, like, you can, like, talk to people for them, like, if you were to call the the DSTRESS hotline in regards to them, and you'd be able to set up, like, a call where they'd be able to call them. But, when it comes down to it, a lot of them can kinda think that it's like you're trying to pry a little too much and it can almost— from my personal experience, it can almost kind of seem like it's a little insulting, if that makes sense. But the biggest thing is just talk to them because you don't know what they're going through. Every single person's different.

There's... Everybody's like a snowflake. Right? There's not one single person is ever the same. Alright? So the biggest thing you can do is just try to talk to them and they'll talk to you when they're ready.

GySgt. Delatorre: And kinda to add on that, it's... If you're gonna be the one asking all the questions for having your own friend open up about it, you're gonna open up some other emotions that don't need to be opened up. And that could also lead to, like, depression and stuff. So you just wanna wait until the individual is ready to actually say something to you. But till then, go out and do their favorite hobbies together. Go ahead and, you know, if it's fishing, go for fish.

And at some point or another, they will open up. So I think it's really important just to wait on it instead of forcing it. Because once you force it, you're going down another rabbit hole and he has lost or she has lost full faith and confidence in you and cannot be a friend no more. It's just... it's gonna get him really irritated.

Emma: Makes sense. So, it sounds like it's something that's very personal. And so the person who is facing PTSD, they're the ones who are the best judge of when they're ready to talk about it. Thank you.

Sgt. Nagl: Absolutely. Yeah.

Melissa: I appreciate that. Like, too, just being a friend for them and being there for them. Like, that's what I got from that message. Like, you wanna still have that... want them to feel like they can trust you. You love them. You care about them.

Sgt. Nagl: Yeah. Absolutely.

Melissa: So we talked a little bit about DSTRESS.com. Are there other local resources you guys know of for PTSD or just general resources that that can help people?

Sgt. Nagl: I mean, there's there's Military OneSource also.

GySgt. Delatorre: Military OneSource, but I think that'll be really it. Other than that, just go into your local places around here and just ask if they can help you out.

Sgt. Nagl: Can I say something really quick?

Melissa: Go for it.

Sgt. Nagl: For all the military veterans and active duty guys that are on here, just know that you going to therapy doesn't mean you're weak-minded. It just means that you're willing to go out and get the help you need so you can get back in the fight. Alright? So do what you need to do and get yourself right.

Melissa: Thank you guys so much for coming in today. We really appreciate that you were willing to come in and to share and take the time, and we also appreciate your service. So thank you so much for that.

Sgt. Nagl: Thank you for your support.

GySgt. Delatorre: Thank you for your support, and thank you for having us.

Emma: Thank you. If you enjoyed today's episode, please remember to share, subscribe, and rate the Riverbend Awareness Project.

Melissa: If you'd like to let us know what you think, you can send an email to podcast at eiradio.com. Thanks for listening, and join us next time on the Riverbend Awareness Project.