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Monday, August 28, 2006

Former Sen. Max Cleland Treated for PTSD

Heartbreaking. From WSBTV News - Atlanta:

[Former Senator Max] Cleland has revealed that he's suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and getting help from those same counseling programs he helped create. Cleland, who lost three limbs in the war, said he didn't get much help for his own psychological wounds when he returned from battle.

The former U.S. Senator from Georgia described his symptoms to Channel 2 Action News reporter Alison Burns. He said he feels depressed, has developed a sense of hyper-vigilance about his security and has difficulty sleeping. He believes the Iraq war has, in part, triggered his condition.

"I realize my symptoms are avoidance, not wanting to connect with anything dealing with the [Iraq] war, tremendous sadness over the casualties that are taken, a real identification with that.....I've tried to disconnect and disassociate from the media. I don't watch it as much. I'm not engrossed in it like I was," he said.

Wishing him peace and better days ahead.

Click on 'Article Link' below tags for related posts...


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When Your Soldier Comes Back Home

Martha Ann Brooks is the wife of a Vietnam veteran who has PTSD. She recently wrote a song hoping to help other military families going through the same thing.

A snippet of the lyrics, and then a listen:

When your soldier comes back home
You will be happy
You want things to be like they were before
But your soldier has been forged through trial by fire
After all he lived through war
Be patient when you see he’s not the same
Your soldier’s changed

When your soldier comes back home
He will be different
He’ll think about those that gave their lives
He might be feelin guilty that he’s living
He will keep that guilt inside
It may show sometimes in things he’ll say and do
Please help him through

Hat tip to Doc over at VeteranLove for the head's up.

[UPDATE December 23, 2008]: As per the writer's comment below, the song is available as a free mp3 download via Mrs. Brooks' Music Store! [direct download]


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

American Legion: VA Needs Full Funding

President Bush is set to make an appearance at this year's American Legion Convention taking place in Salt Lake City, UT next week. While the organization, chartered by Congress in 1919, has supported America's current wars, they are demanding that the VA be fully funded (currently the budget needs approval every year making it hard to plan or count on resources).

From KCPW - Northern Utah Public Radio:

[T]he Legion's National Commander Tom Bock says they do have a list of demands for the Commander-in-Chief. "We're concerned about full funding of the V-A. We need to know that the money is there to take care of our heroes from year after year after year."

Bock says the American Legion is struggling to convince Congress that veterans' benefits should be funded fully and automatically during budget proceedings every year. Furthermore, he says the Veteran's Administration needs to be a Medicare provider. "You know the VA can't bill Medicare to take care of our heroes? Something's wrong with this. They have to leave the VA hospital, walk across the street to a regular hospital to get their Medicare treatment. That's not right and we're working hard on it."

Click on 'Article Link' below tags for more...


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Tuesday, August 22, 2006

On CCN: Purple Hearts, Broken Bodies

General Wesley Clark's Clark Community Network has just unveiled a new Troops and Vets issues blog that I'm honored to be the newest member of.

Today, the second installment in their traumatic brain injury [TBI] series, Purple Hearts, Broken Bodies, makes its appearance (first article).

Click on 'Article Link' below tags for related links...


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One Female Soldier's Struggle with PTSD

From Sunday's Washington Post:

There are times when Trinette Johnson's life seems to stall, when she finds herself staring at the ceiling fan in her bedroom, watching the blades spin, her mind hung on nothing -- not her receptionist job, not her fiance, not her ailing father or her four children.

Not even the war.

The war, of course, is always there somewhere, she said, an unseen force in her life, sometimes producing moments of blank detachment, sometimes stirring up anger like nothing she has ever known.

Click on 'Article Link' below tags for more...

Interesting info on some of the more recent PTSD studies in the article. Apparently, the incidence of combat PTSD in our female troops is now thought to equal that of the men (in the civilian population, women have 2X the rate of PTSD as do men).

This new data would seem to counter that found in a Newsweek piece from last summer which reflected the following:

Roughly 85,000 vets from the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have sought VA medical care. Eleven percent—or 9,688—of those have been diagnosed with PTSD so far. Eleven percent — or 9,688 — of those have been diagnosed with PTSD so far. Of those, 1,277 have been women. That adds up to a higher rate for women.

Read the rest of Donna St. George's piece for more.


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Monday, August 21, 2006

MA Vets Get Tax Exemption Increases

From the Worcestor Telegram:

Gov. Mitt Romney signed legislation last week that provides disabled Massachusetts veterans with extensive tax exemptions. The law also will provide financial relief for the families of servicemen killed or missing in action.

Under this law, communities will be allowed to suspend without interest the local real estate taxes of active duty National Guardsmen and reservists until 180 days after they return home. [Tax exemptions] will be increased to between $400 and $1,500. ... Surviving spouses of veterans killed or missing in action since Sept. 11, 2001, will receive full property tax exemption for five years and a $2,500 annual exemption will be granted after five years.

Hat tip to Susie Dow for this information.


1-800-SUICIDE Update

Help Save 1.800.SUICIDEI got a call yesterday from Reese Butler, founder of the 1-800-SUICIDE Hopeline. (Thank you to Taylor Marsh, author of Suicide Hotline Shutdown, for asking him to contact me). Some of you may remember (as many of you helped) the story of the impending take-over of 1-800-SUICIDE. Also called Hopeline, it came into being 8 years ago and was supported by the late Sen. Paul Wellstone. Click on 'Article Link' below tags for more...

Hopeline, founded by Reese Butler (whose wife had committed suicide -- the center bears her name), has become the largest, most successful confidential suicide hotline around. The Kristin Brooks Help Center [KBHC] takes over 1,000 calls per day. Unfortunately, due to funding difficulties and a dispute with the government, it was in danger of being consumed by the Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services [SAMHSA]. Our efforts helped to win a feel-good victory, a 2-week reprieve.

We are now in the final week, and I wanted to let you know that our help had, well, helped. Here's what Mr. Butler had to say.

Interest from Big Donors Increased
Mr. Butler says, due to all of the press, that Hopeline did hear from some major funders. Nothing is a done deal yet; but, they have had enquiries from people who are in a position to really help Hopeline recover and succeed into the future. Let's hope this becomes a reality...

Grant Writer on Board
Hopeline received a big boost from one important woman: a grant writer who dropped everything she was working on and is now helping Hopeline to find the funding they need.

Annual Take Action Tour
This tour is a yearly source of a large portion of funds for the center. Due to the increased press, interest in the Take Action Tour has also increased. Usually, the venues for this tour are booked at 500 seaters. Plans are now to book 1,500-3,000 venues, which should double the proceeds to the Center.

A few details:

The Take Action! Tour and the annual compilation CD aim to raise money and awareness for teen suicide prevention by directly benefiting the Kristin Brooks Hope Center--founders of the Youth America Hotline! (YAH!). Since 2001 Sub City Records has raised nearly $230,000 to benefit teen suicide prevention.


The Youth America Hotline! (Yah!) was founded by the Kristen Brooks Hope Center to help teens through peer-to-peer counseling, pairing teens in need with qualified teen counselors.


Major Stylist to the Stars Will Host Benefit
A major stylist to the stars (he asked that I not give his name) is holding a benefit in October at a fancy new restaurant down in Miami. There will be a runway fashion show, art exhibit, and food galore to benefit Hopeline. Hopes are this will bring in a nice donation.

Vets4Vets Partnership
With the help of Vets4Vets, the Hopeline has been working on providing more personalized forms of help for those calling in. For example, plans are underway to create a Returning Soldiers line to help a combat vet who may call in needing some help. He or she would be connected to someone on the other end who was a veteran him/herself or who is trained specifically to speak about their issues. You know I like the sound of that...

Also, Mr. Butler mentioned the documentary The Ground Truth at this point, and my notes and memory aren't serving me well at the moment. I don't know what the connection is -- but rent it today! :o)

Making Technology Work for Them
Hopeline has been a great user of technology to improve their services and products. They have been presented with new opportunities in reselling and licensing what they've created, which should bring in additional funds.



Etc...


Download a pdf copy of the December 2002 issue featuring moving tributes to Sen. Paul Wellstone and his wife Sheila. Although it looks like this important magazine resource is no longer in print, Preventing Suicide back issues are available.

For vets, you might be interested in looking at the February 2004 issue containing a report on an impressive Air Force suicide prevention program.


Friday, August 18, 2006

Updated Vietnam Vet PTSD Numbers

The New York Times today explores the findings of a new study on the rate of PTSD in the Vietnam vet population. I've been doing a lot of reading on this issue this past summer, and can honestly say that another look and attempt to nail down a figure seems more than fair. The numbers are all over the place depending upon what book, account, or study you read.

Probable problems: 1) can we really get a plausible number at this point -- 35 years out, and 2) is this information going to hurt the PTSD care avlb to OEF/OIF vets coming back right now?

Click on 'Article Link' below tags for more...

The report, published in the journal Science and viewed by experts as authoritative, found that 18.7 percent of Vietnam veterans developed a diagnosable stress disorder that could be linked to a war event at some point in their lives, well under the previous benchmark number of 30.9 percent. And while the earlier analysis found that for 15.2 percent of the veterans the symptoms continued to be disabling at the time they were examined, the new study put that figure at 9.1 percent.

Although some may have a problem that the percentage of Vietnam vets diagnosed with a stress disorder such as PTSD has 'officially' dropped from 30.9% to 18.7%, that figure still represents a lot of people. Others agree:

Dr. Matthew J. Friedman, executive director of the National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder for the Department of Veterans Affairs, said the new study should establish beyond question that post-traumatic stress disorder is both a common and legitimate diagnosis in returning soldiers. “We can quibble about the numbers,” he said, “but the point is that it’s a lot of people,” and the potential demand on services is substantial. ...

The most important figure in the study, most agreed, was the rate of chronic mental suffering [which clocked in at 9.1% in the study]. ”War is not healthy for children, and what this shows is how unhealthy it is, and who has to pay for the lifelong consequences of that,” said Michael Gaffney, a lawyer in Washington who served in an artillery unit in Vietnam in 1968 and 1969. “And the meat grinder is still operating, in Iraq.”

What are the worries?

The findings come at a time of simmering debate over the emotional effects of service in Iraq which, with its lack of a conventional front echoes the Vietnam experience more than it does other wars. Politicians have clashed over the Department of Veterans Affairs’ budget, including its $3 billion annual bill for mental health, in part because of a suspicion that the estimated rates of post-traumatic stress, based on Vietnam veterans, were too high. Last year, the department commissioned a review of combat stress disability claims for evidence of exaggeration.

The debate has angered some trauma researchers, and infuriated veterans’ groups who say that as it is, mental health services too often fall short.

From Fox News:

In a rational world devoid of politics, Congress might reasonably restrict benefits to the small minority of veterans whose PTSD claims can be verified against their combat experiences. But in our very different -- sometimes surreal -- world, powerful veterans' lobbies pressure Congress to increase benefits with few if any restrictions, regardless of the relevant facts and science. Not many politicians are willing to be seen as saying "no" to veterans.

This has happened before in the cases of Vietnam, Cold War-era and Gulf War vets making scientifically questionable claims of health effects caused by Agent Orange, nuclear weapons testing, and depleted uranium weapons, respectively. In those cases, the process of science was misused and abused in order to justify broad health care benefits.

But then they say this in the very next paragraphs:

One possible solution is simply for Congress to provide that certain types of military service -- such as any service in theaters of combat, not just actual combat experience, and other forms of hazardous duty -- automatically qualify veterans for lifetime health benefits.

That way, scientific research involving combat veterans will be less politicized and results will be less likely to have been pre-determined and/or skewed by the hidden and not-so-hidden agendas of researchers and their funders.

More coverage:

Please read the whole NYT piece...


Wednesday, August 16, 2006

PTSD's Effect on the Brain

A quick audio program discussing PTSD's effect on the brain. From the Earth & Sky Radio Series. [listen | transcript]


PTSD Combat Featured in New Documentary

Back in June, I traveled to UMass-Amherst to take part in the Media Giraffe Project. A great thrill to represent ePluribus Media at a couple of panels at the conference (see my post and photos).

While there, I was interviewed twice regarding our and my work. Check out one interview (starting ~1/3 of the way into the show) ePM board member Cho and I gave to Rabble Radio. (Thanks Wayne MacPhail!) Next up, brief appearances in Project Documentary's interesting documentary (it's 15 minutes long, so give enough time for download) on citizen journalism, From Pamphlet to Blog.

Click on 'Article Link' below tags for more...

My understanding is that the documentary team for Cambridge Community TV shot a lot of video and needed to pare it down to 15 minutes. Really. That's the reason why my video footage wound up on the cutting room floor. Really. Really. So, although you can't see me in the documentary, you can still hear me. But you have to catch it quick in the intro as I say "I am a citizen journalist."

Woo Hoo! :o)

What's got me even more thrilled, though, is the brief on-camera appearance of a screenshot of PTSD Combat: Winning the War Within. Mixed in with other blogs, Harvard Professor John R. Stilgoe provides the voice-over:

Society is beginning to realize maybe every morning before breakfast, it might be nice to see how a particular blogger who is particularly smart and thoughtful has picked up on the previous day and night's news. ... Every local politician should not only be conscious of bloggers, but afraid.

Well, I'm not sure about afraid, but I'm happy to have had our little online area highlighted in this way -- even if ever so briefly.

And if you missed those brief 'appearances', don't bat an eye as the credits roll by. (And no, that's not me next to my name -- that's Bill Densmore, the brains behind the The Media Giraffe Project. :o)

Thank you to the whole Project Documentary team for covering the citizen journalism movement. Kudos to your work!

Jason Crow
Shaun Clarke
Darcie Deangelo
Amy Mertl
Buz Owen
Jason Ong
Matt Landry
Mayana Leocadio


The Longevity of War's Wounds

From today's Cleveland Plain Dealer:

Echoes of combat in Iraq are reverberating among veterans of bygone wars to the point where some are experiencing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD.

A Department of Veterans Affairs study published in February found that reports of mental distress among VA patients aged 18-44 increased dramatically between 2000 and 2003 - when war in Iraq erupted. The study, based on an annual national survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, compared the physical and mental health of nearly 22,000 vets in 2000, and 31,000 veterans in 2003.

VA researchers said that although the increased levels of mental distress were highest among younger vets, many of whom served in Desert Storm, they also noted, "Vietnam-era VA patients [aged 45 to 64 years] reported particularly high levels."

Click on 'Article Link' below tags for more...

Many veterans, in another survey earlier this year said they feel that we didn't learn anything from Vietnam.

The Department of Veterans Affairs said PTSD disability-compensation cases have nearly doubled since 2000, to a record 260,000-plus, with the largest portion coming since the Iraq war started in 2003. Most of those claims (73 percent) are for Vietnam-era veterans, and Vasil isn't surprised.

Vasil said that as these veterans got older and sought treatment for physical health problems, caregivers "started finding that a lot of these guys are having trouble with PTSD. The war in Iraq just amplified it."

Wilson said that for some veterans now reaching or well into retirement, "facing the prospect of the end of their life brings them back to that time when they had to face death for the first time."

Please read the entire piece. Then consider thanking the Cleveland Plain dealer for their attention to this issue.


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Saturday, August 12, 2006

Therapies for Healing Trauma

A general run-down of trauma therapy techniques can be found in an article written by Dr. Bharati Vendgadasalam running in Sunday's Malaysia Star. Topics covered include:

  • Listening
  • Anxiety Management
  • Exposure Therapy
  • Cognitive Therapy
  • Creative therapy: sand-play therapy, art therapy
  • Medications
  • Holistic Health
  • Social Support
[N]ot everybody who experiences trauma will suffer from PTSD. In fact, when given adequate support, most people recover without needing specific psychotherapy. It is when the person’s natural recovery is disrupted that specialised trauma therapies are needed.

Professional help is indicated when the intensity of trauma symptoms do not subside over weeks or months, when symptoms cause severe distress or when a person’s socio- occupational functioning or daily functioning is compromised. Therapies ought to be tailored to suit the needs of the particular individual in that particular circumstance of trauma. In fact the therapy ought to be adapted to the individual, not vice versa.


Click on 'Article Link' below tags for more...

In educational interest, article(s) quoted from extensively.

A portion from the piece:

Creative therapy: sand-play therapy, art therapy

Children are a unique population who are often unable to express their feelings or describe the traumatic event(s). Thus they require more creative therapies using toys, art, games, and sand-play. This form becomes a means of non-threatening symbolic communication to express difficult or unspeakable truths and inner conflicts. These therapies have also been used as adjunctive therapies in adults.

Medications

When appropriate, medications are prescribed. Judicious use of specific serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressant medication has been found to alleviate symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorders.

SSRIs are often needed when symptoms are severe and persistent, there is coexisting depression, or when psychotherapy alone has not relieved the symptoms.

The duration of treatment varies between six months to two years before the medication is tapered off. Recurring symptoms will need more long-term treatment.

Anti-anxiety medications including benzodiazepines on the other hand should be used only briefly, if used at all, to suppress severe anxiety reactions. These tend to be sedative, impair coordination and induce physical dependence in those who use them for prolonged periods.

Holistic health

Alongside main therapies, there are simple therapeutic interventions such as exercise or physical activity, spirituality, reading inspirational literature and ensuring proper nutrition. Adopting a healthy exercise regimen reduces the stress arousal and aids in general wellbeing.

Social support

Family support greatly aids healing and facilitates social reintegration of the individual. By being empathetic listeners, the family can help reduce feelings of loneliness, guilt and self-blame.

Family members also ought not to expect too much or too little from the patient but on instead be realistic during the period of recovery. Working with the family may not always be feasible or beneficial, such as in the case of incestuous sexual abuse wherein family members do not accept the disclosure.

Support can be provided or supplemented by good self-help groups led by sensitive and trained facilitators. Often, this helps remove a sense of isolation through sharing of experiences.


Help Keep 1-800-SUICIDE Confidential, Independent

The personal is political.

My oldest sister, the one with that gorgeous smile and heart of gold looking over my shoulder, committed suicide nearly 6 years ago. I miss her a lot. There are still times like today that I cry over the loss of this kind and sweet lady. But she's with me every single day. Literally.

Her lost battle has been the bridge to the empathy I have for others who lose family members to suicide. She's the reason I began writing about post-traumatic stress disorder [PTSD] in our returning troops after reading an August 31, 2005 Seattle Weekly article. She's the inspiration for the PTSD Timeline, and she's the inspiration for this online journal you're reading today, and the upcoming book, and everything else that's flowed from my reporting on PTSD.

Click on 'Article Link' below tags for more...

Yesterday, at midnight, the federal government wanted to take over the most successful non-profit, confidential suicide hotline available. They almost did it. The largest private non-government suicide hotline (the National Hopeline Network), working tirelessly the past 8 years to build up the 1-800-SUICIDE resource, will continue to operate for two precious weeks due to an enormous outpouring of support yesterday.

I'd like to think that many of those who responded to my call for help yesterday evening had a little something to do with it.

Please help 1-800-SUICIDE remain open and confidential.

Late yesterday afternoon, I came across this article from Taylor Marsh for Huffington Post:

If you've ever known anyone in the throws of deep depression, especially someone who is suicidal, you know that reaching out for help is not easy. Depression brings with it a lot of shame, especially when you're in the throws of the deepest, blackest heart of the illness. Just ask Mike Wallace if you don't think depression is real. ...

[Reese Butler is the founder of the hotline.] According to Butler's suit, the Suicide Hotline takes in over 1,000 calls per day, approximately 60% of which are crisis calls. Butler's current provider is now threatening to shut down the hotline as of midnight tonight. I received this press release this morning.

WASHINGTON, Aug. 11, 1-800-SUICIDE, the nation's best known, private and confidential suicide prevention hotline network, will be shut off at midnight tonight unless action is taken. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA), a division of HHS, has decided to end all funding for KBHC while continuing to owe them $266,000 from over 2 years ago. Instead of sending the funds that were already allocated, SAMHSA has gone on to create their own competing crisis hotline -- which gives them access to callers' private information through phone records. 1-800-SUICIDE does not disclose its phone records to the federal government. SAVE HOPE

I didn't know what to do. It was already late, there were just a few hours left. What good would it do? Could it do any good at such a late date? I had to make a judgement call.

Shook my head in silence (and anger) that I hadnt' heard a thing about this at all up until late yesterday. I began reading as much as I could about the problem from the press reports that were out there. The Huffington Post columnist quoted above especially seemed to have done her legwork, explaining in detail what types of investigations she made into this cause.

So, I made the call after thinking it over to move forward. Perhaps it might be valuable still to lend a hand. Kept digging.

I cross-posted in a number of my usual areas; others have emailed the diary out, too. I also called the 202 number at the Save 1-800-Suicide website but couldn't get through. It was past business hours on the east coast anyway. And so, I called the 800# itself as well and talked to the nice gentleman on the other end.

My understanding of the role this organization plays is that it's the umbrella around some 200 local help centers that answer the phones. For example, I spoke with somebody from the Will-Grundy County center when I called the 800#. He couldn't answer any specific questions I had; but was very nice and I didn't want to waste his time. He did say something along the lines that made me feel that I wasn't the first to call and enquire about this today.

Anyway, what Kristin Brooks Hope Center appears to be is the keeper of the information, the entity that brought all of these scattered help centers together under one brand-new 1-800 number 8 years ago. I mention this because this leads into what finally swayed me and put me into action.

From the FAQ page (which is highly recommended reading if you'd like to give to this cause; it will ease your concerns):

How did the government get involved [initially with this hotline program]?

The Federal Government got involved through the efforts of the late Senator Paul Wellstone after hearing the plea of 1-800-SUICIDE's founder H. Reese Butler II to Congress to help support the National Hopeline Network. Butler had called for the increase in funding to provide enhanced and expanded crisis center certification, training of crisis line workers, and support for the actual network and the organization that runs it. On June 28th, 2000 Congress appropriated (added to the federal budget) $3 million dollars to the SAMHSA annual budget to support and evaluate a national hotline network of suicide crisis lines and to train and certify crisis line workers.

So, this was a project that Sen. Paul Wellstone believed in.

SAMHSA plans to take over the hotline without having to pay anything for it. From The Raw Story:

[T]he government is hoping to direct callers to a new hotline, operated by the Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services [SAMHSA].

Even in light of an outpouring of support in favor of the Kristin Brooks Help Center [KBHC], SAMHSA won't budge:

A grassroots effort called "Save 1-800-SUICIDE www.save1800suicide.org" was created to enlist supporters' help in asking the federal government to make good on their commitment. This online effort sent over 2500 emails to SAMHSA and raised over $7,000 in the past ten days -- but fell short the $60,512 in over due phone bills to keep the line connected.

From the Save 1-800-Suicide website:

Substance Abuse & Mental Health Service Administration (SAMHSA), a division of Health & Human Services, has decided to create their own government run system where they would have direct access to confidential data on individuals in crisis. ...

KBHC network covers more than 200 crisis centers with 20 different distinct peer support hotlines such as the Youth America Hotline, veterans hotlines, postnatal depression moms hotline, etc... 1-800-SUICIDE stands firm in its commitment to provide the best hotline support network with complete confidentiality of the caller's identity.

"I created this hotline in honor and memory of my wife and wanted it to have the utmost in integrity to the caller and to their family. It is unfair that SAMHSA is simply not paying the bills from 2004. They punish not only me for not giving them access to the data -- but the calls that need help, will not get answered" stated Reese Butler, founder of KBHC.

These are the action items they have available to us:

  1. Tell the government to keep their commitment to 1-800-SUICIDE and send the $266,000 that was already allocated.

  2. Help Fund 1.800.SUICIDE. We need to raise $266,000 for our bills with AT&T to keep the Suicide Prevention Hotline running privately. Once we pay off AT&T for our old phone agreement We have to pay roughly $30,000 per month for the next 6 months in order to come out of debt.

  3. Keep Suicide Prevention Private and Confidential Petition. Our Government should not duplicate the efforts of the  Hopeline - but help with training of social works, education and awareness of the issues of mental health.

  4. E-mail your friends.


Help Save 1.800.SUICIDE

Update [2006-8-12 1:8:40 by ilona]: Damn, we're good!!

This just in, caught by sardonyx:

1-800-SUICIDE Gets 2 Week Extension - Thank You For Your Support!

TO ALL THOSE WHO SUPPORTED US A BIG THANK YOU!

The outpouring of support and donations was the largest we have ever received in our history in a single day. We received over 100 donations and the day is not done. We made our target of 10k to keep the line live for two more weeks. We received calls of support from people who credit the Hopeline with helping them through their most difficult times and now they wanted to help us in ours. We also received the most media coverage in our 8 year history. So many more people will learn of our service as a result of this campaign.

There is much work to be done to get our organization into a secure sustainable position but our all volunteer Board is dedicated to helping us to get there, and with the support of people like you this grassroots network of community based crisis centers can be even better and stronger than before. From all of us at the Kristin Brooks Hope Center and the members of the National Hopeline Network, we thank you for your continued support, faith in us to be stewards of the nation's suicide hotline network and belief in our mission to offer help and hope from unconditional and confidential crisis centers.

Best always,

Reese Butler, President and Founder

KBHC Board of Directors


Woo Hoo, this one is a clear victory, guys. THANK YOU ALL! We're not done. They still need our help. Please do what you can...


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Cuts to Vet Brain Trauma Funding Planned

The issue of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) care for our returning veterans has virtually ignited the past couple of days. First came the opening installment of a TBI series over at Gen. Wes Clark's Community blog yesterday morning. In the afternoon, I added a TBI article to the mix to generate interest in the series.

Late last night, USA Today blew the issue wide open by posting a stunning article on its website. They reported that the House and Senate Appropriation Committees were poised to slash by half TBI funding used for research and treatment of war-related brain injuries in its 2007 Defense appropriation bill.

Traumatic brain injury is the signature wound of our nation's current wars. As of January 2006, 20% of those injured in Iraq had TBI. Cutting funding when it's most needed is reckless and immoral. My full analysis posted at ePluribus Media.


Veterans Feeling Alienated, Unsupported

Heartbreaking column by Bob Kerr from The Providence Journal:

He hears about the people who volunteer to go back to Iraq for second and third tours. He thinks he knows why. 'It's a sign of PTSD ... That's the last place life made sense. Here, they don't fit in. They're not part of anything.' ...

He left Iraq after nine hard months. 'We got back and nobody met us at the plane in Baltimore. I was carrying the bags of guys who had been sent home before us, and on the flight to Columbus, Ga., they wanted to charge us extra for the bags of the wounded. We ended up renting a U-Haul to drive it down.' At Fort Benning, there was no real welcome either. 'It's part of the PTSD problem,' he said. 'What I did didn't matter.' He took a day to go home and visit his children in another state and was berated for it by a superior officer.

So it happens again, only worse this time. Remember how we weren't going to repeat the mistake, how we were going to make sure that those coming home from Iraq were not met with the same cold, even scornful, rejection that awaited returning Vietnam veterans?

Well, don't look now but the PTSD clinics at veterans' hospitals are filling up with people who are coming home to find that their war isn't even on the far edge of awareness for many Americans. They go through the hell of it and see the carnage and then come home to a "ho-hum, where ya been?" reaction. They've darn near died and had friends who did and not a lot of people seem to care.

This is unacceptable, America. And you know it. What will you do to change it? Will you do anything to change it?


Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Protecting Our Troops from Traumatic Brain Injury

General Wesley Clark's Clark Community Network has just unveiled a new Troops and Vets issues blog, kicking things off today in fine form with the first in a series of articles on the signature injury of the Iraq War: traumatic brain injury (TBI).

You'll learn about one Marine's sister and the inspiring summer project she's taken up, advocating for Operation Helmet and for keeping all of our troops as safe as they can be.


Monday, August 07, 2006

CA East Bay Stand Down Days 2006

From the Oroville, CA Mercury Register:

"East Bay Stand Down 2006 is set to pitch its tents next week at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in an effort to reach out for homeless, downtrodden veterans. 'We pride ourselves as a one-stop shop,' said Jerry Yahiro, director of East Bay Stand Down. 'One-third of all the homeless you see in the Bay Area are veterans. Nationally, there are over 250,000 homeless veterans.'

The biennial event, which will run Aug. 10-13, will turn the fairgrounds into 'Tent City,' where homeless veterans and their relatives will be bused in throughout the Bay Area. Participants will receive free drug and alcohol counseling, dental care and medical attention. Judges will be present to settle warrants and other legal problems. There also will be job and benefits counseling."

Here's a full list of Stand Downs across the country. Pitch in any way you can, and make a vet's day!


Daily Press: Improve Returning Vet Health Care

Important editorial in today's Hampton Roads, VA Daily Press:

"The casualties of war are not always the obvious ones, and the wounds brought home are not always visible until after they've begun to affect families and entire communities. Recent studies suggest that soldiers and Marines returning from Iraq are seeking mental health services at a very high rate. Whether it is post-traumatic stress, anxiety, suicidal impulses, alcohol and drug abuse or marriage and family problems - all of which can manifest themselves in the aftermath of combat duty - these are needs that must be taken very seriously.

Most alarming is the situation faced by many reservists and National Guard members, whose military insurance benefits cover only those problems diagnosed within 180 days after returning from combat. Those two groups now comprise about 40 percent of the front-line forces in Iraq and more than half in Afghanistan, the highest percentage for any war in U.S. history. They are doing more tours of duty, and longer ones, than anticipated, and when they return home - not to military bases, but to their families, communities and workplaces - it is imperative that they receive any counseling or mental health care they need."

Read the rest, then consider emailing thanks to the Daily Press for standing up for our returning veterans.


Saturday, August 05, 2006

Missing OH Iraq Veteran

As referenced in comments, this soldier was found.

From Channel 5 Cincinnati News:

Mother, Police Search For Missing Iraq Veteran
Man Last Seen Saturday Morning, July 29

HAMILTON -- Hamilton police are asking for the public's help in finding a missing Iraq War veteran.

Police said Sgt. Garry Jones, 24, was last seen Saturday morning [a week ago] leaving American Self Storage on Eden Park Drive in a late 1980s maroon Chevy Cavalier. Janice Jones said her son has not been the same mentally since returning from duty in Iraq last year. Jones said her son has never disappeared like this before.


Updates in comments.

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Thursday, August 03, 2006

Iowa Sens Support Vet Suicide Prevention Bill

From the Des Moines Register:

"Iowa's senators teamed up today to introduce a bill that would require the federal government develop a better program to prevent suicides among veterans returning from Iraq.

Sen. Tom Harkin, a Democrat, and Sen. Charles Grassley, a Republican, said too many tragic stories are cropping up of veterans who come home only to deal with continued anguish over their service. 'Veterans don't simply have physical ailments--often they are struggling mentally,' said Grassley. Harkin said that 'the stress our servicemen and women endure in combat is enormous and can trigger severe mental health issues after they have returned home.'

Under the legislation, the Department of Veterans Affairs would be required to provide suicide prevention education for staff members, ensure 24-hour access to mental health care for veterans deemed at risk of suicide and create a family education program, aides said.

The bill is named for Joshua Omvig of Grundy Center. Omvig, 22, suffered from untreated post-traumatic stress disorder following an 11-month tour of duty in Iraq."

The House version of the Joshua Omvig Suicide Prevention Act was introduced by Iowa Rep. Leonard Boswell.

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Gen. Wesley Clark Talks About PTSD

From the New Jersey Jewish Standard:

"Addressing veterans’ issues [at the American Legion Post in Rochelle Park, Gen. Wesley] Clark said that America’s security relies on its armed forces and those forces need more than they are getting, in the field and at home. He told of a soldier whose mother he had recently met. The young man came home from Iraq without visible wounds, although he’d witnessed comrades die. One day he left a note for his mother, pulled the trigger on his gun, and committed suicide.

Clark, who had suffered from post-traumatic stress after his service in Vietnam, said that the Israelis have psychologists and psychiatrists for every man in the army, and the United States owes 'it to our men and women to take better care of them.'"

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30% of Ft. Irwin OIF Vets Show Signs of PTSD

From the Barstow, CA Desert Dispatch:

"Approximately 30 percent of Fort Irwin soldiers who have returned from Iraq are experiencing some symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, said Lt. Col. Valvincent Reyes, the senior social work officer at Fort Irwin's mental health department.

Reyes said the symptoms for soldiers vary but usually include nightmares, problems sleeping, anger, anxiety, detachment from the outside world and intrusive thoughts or flashbacks. 'Five different belief systems are impacted in war,' he said, citing the ideas of safety, control, a belief in power, self-esteem and trust. 'That's changed once they run into IEDs and mortars.'

Most soldiers, he said, can never prepare for the amount of physical bodily damage done by an improvised explosive device, or IED. The images of destruction stay with the soldiers long after they leave the war zone. Fort Irwin soldiers are no exception."

Read the rest of Adrienne Ziegler's piece here.


Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Vermont to Receive Funds for Vet Readjustment Program

From yesterday's Barre/Monteplier Times Argus:

"The Vermont office of the U.S. Veterans Affairs Department is getting an extra $1 million to continue building a network that helps service members and their families adjust to life after being deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan.

The money is contained in the Defense Department budget, which has passed the U.S. House and is likely to pass the Senate, said Vermont independent Rep. Bernard Sanders, who introduced the legislation that led to the appropriation.

'The problem of post-traumatic stress disorder, and of difficulties in adjusting back to civilian life, is very, very real,' Sanders said Monday during a Burlington news conference. 'Social support is the number one predicator of successful readjustment, which means that working with families and communities is extremely important.'"


Editorial: Military, Troops, Families Under Stress

A hard-hitting editorial from the Beaver Valley/Allegheny Times today expresses frustrations with the Iraq war and the problems flowing from "botched" decisions stressing and taxing military readiness, equipment, personnel, and families.

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The U.S. military, especially the Army and Marines Corps, is paying a terrible price for the Bush administration's botched occupation of Iraq.

In a letter to President Bush, U.S. Rep. Ike Skelton of Missouri, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, reported that nearly two-thirds of the Army's combat brigades are not ready for wartime missions, largely because they are hampered by equipment shortfalls. They're also having trouble filing their ranks with qualified personnel.

It's important to note that Skelton, like fellow Democrat U.S. Rep. John Murtha, is a staunch supporter of the military. When Skelton speaks, people ought to listen because he, like Murtha, often reflects the views of those in the military. He also was not leaking secrets. The documents he and his fellow Democrats cited in their letter and at a press conference were unclassified.

He was backed up by the Army chief of staff, Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, who released a statement the same day saying, "I have testified to the facts about our readiness and I remain concerned about the serious demands we face." The general added that the Army needs more than $17 billion in 2007 and up to $13 billion a year until two or three years after the war in Iraq ends.

Money can fix the equipment problem.

However, it isn't just materiel that is being worn out in Iraq. Personnel are, too. The constant combat rotations without adequate recovery time are taking a terrible toll, and not just on the combatants. Their families are under an incredible amount of stress, as well.

A first-class military organization is being ground down in Iraq because of this administration's blunders. Even worse, the quagmire in Iraq has limited the options the Unites States has in dealing with rogue states such as Iran and North Korea.

The time has come to withdraw our forces from this mess and retool and refit the Army and Marine Corps as quickly as possible so that they can do what their mission calls on them to do: to defend the nation against real enemies, not ideologically and politically convenient ones like Saddam Hussein.


Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Study: Higher Memory, Attention Lapses for OIF Vets

From AP, Iraq vets may have memory lapses:

"Veterans of the fighting in Iraq are more likely than other U.S. soldiers to suffer mild memory and attention lapses back home, but they also tend to have better reaction time, at least in the short-term, a study found. ...

The study involved 654 soldiers who took mental-function tests a few months before going to Iraq in mid-to-late 2003 and within three months after returning in 2005. The researchers noted subtle changes in their scores. If the changes persist, "that's where you have to worry about people developing stress-related emotional problems like post-traumatic stress disorder," Vasterling said.

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