Every situation is different, so a veteran suffering from situational stress might need someone to talk to while a veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder might need medication or even hospitalization, Celie said.
“You have to tailor the intervention that is going to work for them,” she said.
Aragon, who is a member of Gov. Mary Fallin’s cabinet, said she doesn’t think traditional methods of referrals, medication and counseling are enough. She has been working with state lawmakers and medical experts to evaluate a new treatment regimen involving hyperbaric oxygen chambers.
Oklahoma State University is currently running tests on veterans and civilians to determine whether the chambers, which allow users to breathe pressurized pure oxygen, are an effective treatment for the kind of traumatic brain injuries experienced by some combat veterans.
“We don’t have anything that tells us (traditional methods) are working, because numbers keep going up,” Aragon said. “I see this as the strongest and best answer we have to suicide. It is treating the actual illness that has caused a great many of these folks to take their lives.”
Oklahoma Watch is a nonprofit organization that produces in-depth and investigative journalism on important public-policy issues facing the state. For more Oklahoma Watch content, go to oklahomawatch.org. Note: Chase Cook was an Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation News21 Fellow who was part of the team that produced the News21 project “Back Home: the Enduring Battles Facing Post-9/11 Veterans.”