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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Take Extra Time to Check in on Vets This Holiday Season

As a recent incident over Christmas clearly shows, the holidays can be difficult for many returning veterans. The intensity of feelings and reactions is increased, and depression can often be most debilitating during what is supposed to be a season of cheer.

One explanation of this is found in today's Mail Tribune:

"The holiday period is a hard time for them," said Hood, head of the trauma rehabilitation program in psychology services at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' Southern Oregon Rehabilitation Center and Clinics in White City. "Post-traumatic stress disorder and all trauma effects are directly related to memories of the past interfering with our normal, everyday functioning," she explained. "That happens by something going on in the environment bringing up or triggering the memory."

And no holidays compare with Christmas and New Year when it comes to generating memories, she said. "It can be anything — songs on the radio, the smell of cookies baking, Santa in somebody's office," she said. "Those memories may be good but just the fact your brain is working more on memories is going to make the other stuff come up," she added. "This time of year, we focus a lot on helping people get through the holidays and how to take care of yourself." ..

"Anger is the biggest issue they are dealing with," Hood said of her experience working with veterans. "That includes anger that things have changed, anger that they've come back and things aren't like they dreamed how it would be, and anger that they've changed. "A lot of them are angry that they no longer enjoy the things they used to," she added. "Many have a feeling of distance from their old lives, feeling a loss of connection."

And for some it could be anger or fear over having to return to the combat zone again. And again. And again. In the age of multiple deployments and stop-loss orders and IRR call-ups, how can we expect our troops to put it all behind them, when they know they'll have to face it all over again?

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