(KWES) - Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) affects many of our veterans. 20 percent of women, who served in Iraq or Afghanistan have been diagnosed with the disorder.
Another study found 27 percent of female vets will suffer from PTSD during their postwar lives.
"They see it as a form of weakness and it's not," said Dr. Connie Ponce, Chief of Mental Health for the West Texas VA. "If they are in a base in Iraq and they are subjected to rockets or any type of incoming rounds, they may experience PTSD as a result of that, but we also see individuals who have experienced some sort of military sexual trauma, and as a result of that, they can also experience PTSD symptoms."
Among the veterans who receive care through the VA, 23 percent of women reported sexual assault in the military and 55 percent reported sexual harassment.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder manifests itself in different ways. Some vets have nightmares, others deal with anger issues or have trouble maintaining relationships.
"People that they used to love, activities that they used to associate with or enjoy, they find themselves shying away from those types of interactions," said Ponce.
The local VA serves 18,000 veterans annually, 1,300 are women.
"There was a time when mental health didn't have as many treatments as they do today. One of the things that have developed over time is the development of therapies and treatments that actually can help improve recovery," said Ponce.
Treatment of PTSD can be tricky. It's something that needs to be kept up with. Vets typically are treated through to individual, group, or family counseling, as well as through medications, prolonged exposure and cognitive processing therapy.
Because of the growing number of women serving in the military, many groups like the Disabled American Veterans Midland-Odessa chapter have started outreach to women who may be suffering in silence.
"A lot of female vets don't want to come join because they don't want to talk about what happened when they were deployed, the issues they had to face," said Maria Rodriguez, member of the DAV.
Barbara Bevins, the women's coordinator for the DAV, says it's important for women veterans to stick together and uplift each other. She helps to link female vets with each other to give a sense of sisterhood.
"I've given them phone numbers of a couple women that are willing to talk about their issues themselves and how they've dealt with them. I think it's important to take care of the women and maybe give them another source that they don't have through the VA," said Bevins.
"I know that there are a lot of small areas around this city in Midland that female vets are hiding and I would encourage them to come out, even if it's a phone call, reach out. Talk to any of us at the DAV. We are here for you," said Rodriguez.
The DAV will hold a women's forum on May 20 at the Midland Horseshoe Arena from 12 p.m. until 6 p.m. For more information, call Callie Rios at (432) 210-3716.
The event is open to veterans, first responders and even nurses who may be suffering with PTSD.
If you are having suicidal thoughts, call 1-800-273-8255. All calls are confidential.
To find a West Texas VA location near you, call 800-472-1365.