First lady Michelle Obama was in Philadelphia Wednesday to announce a new initiative to improve nursing care for veterans with traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Addressing a group of nurses and students at the University of Pennsylvania, the first lady emphasized that veterans should not be ashamed of the invisible wounds of war.
“These combat-related mental health challenges are natural, normal human responses to the violence of war,” Obama said. “But too often these conditions are misunderstood or misdiagnosed.”
In the initiative announced Wednesday, more than 450 nursing schools and 150 professional organizations are pledging to boost training and increase research so nurses can better recognize and treat traumatic brain injury, PTSD and depression.
According to Obama, more than 44,000 troops have sustained at least moderate traumatic brain injuries since 2000. As many as one in six veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have reported symptoms of PTSD.
Both Obama and Jill Biden stressed the importance of nurses, the first health-care worker many patients come into contact with, in recognizing the symptoms of both disorders and connecting veterans with appropriate services.
“Nurses are on the front lines in providing lifesaving care in nearly every community,” Biden said. “This is critical because only half of our veterans seek care through the VA system.”
The announcement marks the first anniversary of Joining Forces, an effort Michelle Obama and Jill Biden launched to rally the country around military families as troops return from Iraq and Afghanistan.