When Christina R. Silva was 19, she joined the U.S. Marine Corps because of her father’s legacy of service as a US Army Soldier during the Vietnam Era and the innate desire to make a difference through the elite training offeredby the Marines. The native of Louisiana discovered during her first week of boot camp that there was a sacrificial cost to earn a Meritorious Mast as a woman. Silva experienced a series of devastating events that lead to an instant impactof mental, emotional, physical, and psychological change in the first week of duty at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
“Before enlisting, I couldn’t imagine the incredible training techniques and psychological breakthroughs that would be implemented by drill sergeants who prepare new Marine recruits to achieve their best during rigorous training,” she said. “The courage necessary to complete the training and to defend our country with the highest scores in physical excellence and the ASVAB military entrance exam proved my strength to succeed.”
Silva became a Platoon 4021 “Series High PFT” Marine because she was able to spiritually, physically and mentallystrive without giving up and by standing firm. Unfortunately, Silva’s military conditioning while preparing for deployment caused her to suffer from anxiety, depression and hyper vigilance. “Ironically, I became an overachiever with low esteem, which is a strength that causes me to never give up,” she said.
Anxiety and depression are more common than we admit and carry a stigma. National Anxiety and Depression Awareness Week in May was established to break the stigma and speak openly about disorders that can be treated and understood. The national statistics state that 40 million adults in the United States will suffer from an anxiety disorder. That’s 18% of the adult population. Depression is the leading cause of disability in the U.S.
Women are more than twice as likely to develop PTSD with feelings of being depressed and anxious, while men with PTSD are more likely to have problems with alcohol or drugs.
There are several types of anxiety disorder including: acute stress disorder, agoraphobia without a history of panic disorder, panic disorder with and without agoraphobia, social phobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, anxiety disorder due to a general medical condition, substance-induced anxiety disorder, and anxiety disorder.
Anxiety and Depression Association of America report, and many of these disorders are more prevalent in women than men and affect millions of adults:
Specific Phobias affects (19 million) generally starts during childhood at age 7. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (2.2 million) and posttraumatic stress disorder (7.7 million) are closely related to anxiety disorders, which some may experience at the same time, along with depression. Major Depressive Disorder (14.8 million). Persistent Depressive Disorder, formerly called dysthymia is a form of depression that usually continues for at least two years (3.3 million).
One-third find mental health care inaccessible and more than four in 10 states cost as a barrier to treatment. Resources for no or low cost medication can be found at Partnership for Prescription Assistance, a free service. www.pparx.org Community Assistance Program distributes free discount prescription drug cards.The cards are available in 16 languages. www.caprxprogram.org If the medication is still not affordable with the discount card, the RX Med Assist Program is available.
Honorably discharged at the age of 23, Silva, achieved the rank of Lance Corporal, served during The Persian Gulf Era and received a DAV Community of Heroes Award in 2012 for injuries she suffered while serving. “My trauma is my triumph,” states Silva. “I continue my community outreach and media industry relations roles to motivate andempower Disabled American Veterans, women veterans and underrepresented minority classes.” Silva who describes herself as an adventurous optimist, continued, “My mission is to promote higher education and resiliency toward earned benefits for all who have served and their families.”
You might say that Silva’s wounds are both visible and invisible but her voice is clear and empathetic because she has lived through and is still overcoming the unique impact military service has on women.
Today, Silva is thriving as a single mother of two adult sons and operates as a federal contractor specializing in real estate development and multimedia. In 2002, she formed CRS Productions, a small woman-owned minority disadvantaged business. She produces multi-cultural, safety and awareness events for military families on military bases nationwide and “The Christina Silva Show,” on LA Talk Radio, which focuses on educating our veterans. Silva is a certified USAF Resiliency Training Assistant and is dedicated to promoting camaraderie and voluntarism within the community. For more information about Silva, visit www.CRSonAir.com.
Marie Y. Lemelle, MBA, a public relations consultant, is the owner of Platinum Star PR and can be reached on Twitter @PlatinumStar or Instagram @PlatinumStarPR. Send “Health Matters” related questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and look for her column in The Wave.