CHICAGO (CBS) — Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, has long plagued members of the U.S. Armed Forces.
But as CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli reported Wednesday night, there is now a treatment that is being pioneered in Chicago, and a handful of sites around the country.
“They gave me back my life – my husband, my children, me,” said Air Force veteran Cheryl Dudley.
Dudley is talking about a free three-week program that she believes saved her life.
“A year ago, I didn’t want to live,” she said.
That is because Dudley was suffering from PTSD. Her trauma stemmed from her time at ground zero in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, and at the Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, where for two years she helped care for the bodies of fallen service members at the country’s largest mass casualty processing facility.
“It was one of the hardest things any of us have ever dealt with, and one of the hardest things our entire country has ever had to deal with,” Dudley said.
And it clearly took a toll on the married mother of three.
“I wouldn’t leave the house,” she said. “At one point, I was at the end of my rope and contemplating suicide.”
But then, Dudley enrolled in the Road Home program at Rush University Medical Center. The three week, daylong intensive outpatient program is being offered to veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
The Road Home gave Dudley a service dog and a renewed will to live.
“I can look at my life now and say, you know, this is the happiest I’ve ever been in my entire life,” she said.
The Road Home medical director Dr. Rebecca Van Horn is pleased, but not all that surprised – because she says when it comes PTSD, “it’s treatable.”
And the numbers are dramatic, Van Horn said.
“At the end of treatment, more than 50 percent of participants in our program no longer meet the criteria for PTSD,” she said. “We’re cutting it in half.”
Despite that success rate, The Veterans Administration says 17 veterans commit suicide each day in America.
That’s why Rush is Teaming up with David Boreanaz of the CBS Show “SEAL Team” to get the word out.
Meanwhile, the Wounded Warrior Project has given rush more than 40 million dollars to help traumatized veterans.
So Van Horn’s message to veterans feeling hopelessly depressed or even suicidal is simple.
“I’d say give us a call,” she said.
Close to 500 vets have gone through the Road Home program. Family members are also included so they have a better sense of what their loved one is going through and how better to react to the symptoms of PTSD.
If you want more information, call (312) 942-VETS or click here.