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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Reintegration Tips for Returning Vets

From the Utica Observer-Dispatch:

Fred Bush, a clinical social worker with the Veterans' Administration hospital in Syracuse, said he has seen many returning soldiers who exhibit a wide range of feelings and reactions as they try to readjust to their old home lives. "Everybody will have some sort of readjustment issues," he said. "Whatever a person has experienced will never go away, and we should never forget what we've done," he said, "But if you can learn to live with them, and symptoms are not stopping you from having a productive life, (it's alright)."

It's when the symptoms don't go away or start to interfere with relationships or the soldier's ability to function professionally or in other ways that the returning soldier should seek help. ... It's estimated many as 30 percent of those may need clinical intervention at some time, he said. Each returning veteran must readjust to life in the United States after experiencing things most American civilians can't fully comprehend.

Click on 'Article Link' below tags for his reintegration tips...

Readjustment issues are normal, but if they persist, the returning soldier should seek help from a mental health professional.

Watch for acute changes to behavior, like excessive drinking, social isolation or high levels of anxiety.

It's normal for a person returning from a combat situation to sleep lightly for a while, but continued problems sleeping, or repeated bad dreams could be a sign help is needed.

A readjustment period in a marriage after being in a war zone is common. Home-life patterns may have shifted in the soldier's absence. It helps to let the returning spouse feel needed and have them take on responsibilities they used to perform, even if the spouse who stayed home had been doing them.

It's helpful if a returning soldier can find at least one person to talk to about their experiences. Family and friends should let soldiers know, without badgering or pressuring, that they're willing to listen.

Returning soldiers shouldn't be afraid to share their experiences with people close to them. It can help to talk. Also, some soldiers think they shouldn't tell their loved ones about dangerous or disturbing situations they faced, because they don't want to hurt or upset them. It can still be important to share those stories with the right person and to reach out for support.

Returning soldiers may have been near explosions, and could have undiagnosed brain injuries. Behaving out of character can be a sign of such an injury.

No matter what your view of the politics surrounding the war, be sensitive when talking about them to a returning veteran. A "thank you" or a pat on the back can go a long way.

•For information about readjustment issues faced by returning soldiers, or to find out how to get help, call the Veterans' Administration's TelCare information line at 1-888-838-7890. To ask Veterans Administration Clinical Social Worker Fred Bush to speak at your organization, call 425-4400 ext 52719.

Source: Veterans Administration Clinical Social Worker Fred Bush

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