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Thursday, May 24, 2007

NPR Offers Perplexing Update on Fort Carson's PTSD Handling Today

From the Rocky Mountain News:

All the talk about Fort Carson improving care for soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder may be just that - talk. That's the conclusion of a National Public Radio report to be aired today.

Reporter Daniel Zwerdling's story is a follow-up to a December 2006 report that revealed soldiers were being punished, and in some cases pushed out of the military, for seeking help for PTSD and other combat-related mental problems.

The 2006 report prompted investigations by the Pentagon and a bipartisan group of U.S. senators. It also brought much talk of change at Fort Carson, where officers now receive training on PTSD symptoms and leaders have sworn to investigate any cases of soldiers being wronged.

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


Zwerdling sat in on one of the much-lauded training programs, which he said consisted of a psychiatric nurse "racing through" a slide show and giving mixed messages about how to treat soldiers with PTSD. Several times she tells leaders to make sure soldiers get help, and she describes some symptoms: alcohol and drug abuse, marital problems, domestic abuse. But she also says that kind of behavior should not be tolerated.

Zwerdling apparently taped the training program he sat in on, and then played it for a handful of mental healthcare professionals who have extensive backgrounds in treating soldiers. They were not impressed. One said the program was "almost worthless" while another deemed it a failure.

The NPR story, Return to Fort Carson, also makes clear not every leader is on board with the military's promise of taking care of every soldier and soldier's family. It quotes a sergeant who calls PTSD "a big crock" and an excuse for troops to misbehave. "Suck it up and deal with it," the sergeant says. "It's just all these people who talk about this PTSD crap and make us go to these stupid lectures . . . who are driving me crazy."

The story also quotes a soldier diagnosed with chronic PTSD who said he was demoted because he was ordered to return to Iraq but sought psychiatric treatment instead. The demotion occurred after Fort Carson and other military officials pledged that the practice of punishing soldiers with emotional problems would end. The story will air today during All Things Considered, which runs from 3 to 7 p.m. on Colorado Public Radio.

[UPDATE]: Listen to the full NPR report. More here.

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