Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Real Fright: The Psychological Scars of Combat

It's a standard American ritual. Today, you'll probably be booed at by scary tricksters knocking on your door, demanding sugary treats.

Perhaps you'll see a chainsaw-wielding demon on the street and laugh. Or maybe you'll dress in scary costumes and get a kick out of reveling in and even poking fun at Halloween's fantasy of fear and death and danger.

Of course, some of us don't have to rely on the eve of All Saints Day to be immersed in dark times and emotions.

Those who've been to war have tapped fear and death and danger on the shoulder. They've lived the more difficult side of life. And many, when they return from the pit of hell, struggle to find the inner and outer security and confidence long since lost to them on some dusty combat trail. Getting their life back isn't as easy as peeling off a costume, wiping off the fake blood or putting away a candy dish.

I wonder what they think about Halloween?

Below the fold, a few recent articles that reveal how the daily fear, anxiety and solitude of PTSD affects some of our recently returned troops. Read as many of them as you can find time for.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Combat Clips: A Selection of OEF/OIF Veteran Statistics, October 2009

Let's jump right into the data.

First up, VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki's comments from this week's first-ever joint DoD/VA National Mental Health Summit in Washington, D.C., are noteworthy:

Post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury have outcomes as devastating as those from physical injuries, and everyone is vulnerable, Shinseki said, noting that both departments are eager to learn how to better address those injuries through various programs and methods.

The debilitating effects of psychological trauma can lead troops and veterans into a downward spiral of drug and alcohol abuse, homelessness, anger issues, failed marriages and eventually suicide, he explained, noting that more veterans have committed suicide since 2001 than the number of servicemembers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan over that period.

“There is urgency in addressing the mental baggage of war,” he said. “Our newest generation of veterans, returning from the ongoing conflicts, is experiencing increased rates of alcohol and drug abuse and domestic violence as they undergo reintegration at home. While [Iraq and Afghanistan] veterans comprise no more than 10 percent of all veterans being seen for mental health care, they could be in treatment for a very long time if early intervention, diagnosis and treatment are not priorities.”

Although I could have missed it, this is the first time I've seen the volume of OEF/OIF veteran suicides so clearly presented to the American people by a top official.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

"Moving a Nation to Care" Subject of Extensive Book Review Essay in VA's Premiere "Veterans Law Review" Journal

A book review any author would be bowled over by (this one being no exception) appears in the premiere issue of the VA's Veterans Law Review journal.

It's much more than a mere review, however.

Written by Holly Seesel, Mary Sorisio, and Paul Sorisio -- Associate Counsel with the Board of Veterans’ Appeals at the Department of Veterans Affairs -- the 24-page (!) 'book review essay' provides an in-depth look at my book (Moving a Nation to Care) and another by Stanley Krippner, Ph.D., and Daryl S. Paulson (Haunted by Combat). "Consequences of Combat" [pdf] begins:

Almost every week there is a different news report concerning the recovery and treatment of veterans returning from the Persian Gulf. Given this focus, we have examined two recently published books on the topic: Haunted by Combat: Understanding PTSD in War Veterans Including Women, Reservists, and Those Coming Back from Iraq as well as Moving a Nation to Care: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and America’s Returning Troops. While the intended audiences and the themes of the two books are different, both offer insights into understanding the disorder, include suggestions for improving treatment, and identify areas where more research is required. We will examine two topics discussed in each book: the changing face of PTSD and treatment options for PTSD. We will then offer suggestions for treatment of PTSD and highlight areas where further research is most needed.

In extended, I've included VLR's welcome by Secretary James B. Peake, its table of contents and another clip from the review. A lot of good info -- and all available freely online from the VA.

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