The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), a mental health advocacy group, is calling for the inclusion of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a war-related injury, deserving of the awarding of a Purple Heart.
The group is urging the Department of Defense (DoD) to recognize those who are suffering from PTSD, as well as other mental health injuries that arose due to combat exposure, by awarding them with the Purple Heart “with the same level of appreciation and recognition as those awarded to warriors with visible wounds.”
NAMI argued in a report published on Thursday that mental health issues, including PTSD, may be categorized as war-related injuries, which means that the DoD has an obligation to honor service members who are suffering from the condition.
Michael Fitzpatrick, executive director of NAMI, said: “NAMI is drawing a line in the sand with the Department of Defense… Troops with invisible wounds are heroes. It’s time to honor them. It will also strike a tremendous blow against the stigma that often discourages individuals from seeking help when they need it.”
The Pentagon decided not to award Purple Hearts to service members suffering from PTSD in 2009, citing that the condition may be difficult to diagnose. The Pentagon also pointed out that symptoms can arise later in life that is not necessarily linked to any specific action or enemy.
According to the Pentagon, more research in the field of brain science was necessary before a decision to award the Purple Heart for PTSD could be made.
The Purple Heart is awarded to service members who are injured as a result of enemy engagement and require treatment by a medical officer.