Finally, the article on PTSD in soldiers returning from Iraq has arrived. The clip is courtesy of The Daily News Journal op-ed section. As always, I will be pasting the original article into the body of my blog.
I am currently working with a non-profit organization that has a program meant for properly counseling these suffering soldiers. Perhaps this tactic will serve these soldiers more efficiently and we’ll find similar programs adopted through-out the U.S. There is no excuse for why these soldiers are being “diagnosed” and sent on their way. Or worse, sent back out into the chaos that created the disorder to begin with. In doing such things, how can we not expect to see increasing soldier on soldier homicides and suicides?
Common sense people, common sense.
Be sure to check out www.everyminute.org, this is the non-profit organization I voluntarily blog for. It is an organization dedicated to ending the stigma associated with mental illness, decreasing suicide statistics, and fighting for more funding in relation to mental health research. It’s up to us to make a difference, make the right choice, support mental health awareness.
GUEST COLUMN: Veterans suffer with PTSD
BY ANNABELLA HARGROVE • June 5, 2009
The major portion of the war in Iraq was supposed to have ended in May of 2003. Clearly, this declaration of freedom from Iraq did not occur. Soldiers already stationed in Iraq were ordered to stick around and keep an eye out for acts of rebellion against U.S. military forces. Others enlisted in the armed forces who were sent home on the basis of their ETS, (end of term service date) were “stop-lossed,” an inhumane, knavish clause in the contract of a person signing up to perform their act of patriotic duty. Even more soldiers, fresh out of boot camp, were sent out for deployment.
The fear of rebellion by Iraqi citizens did turn out to be legit; over 4,000 U.S. soldiers have been killed by various al-Qaeda insurgents over the six-year span of the “war on terrorism.” More recently, and perhaps more devastating, is the high number of soldiers coming back from Iraq with PTSD, an anxiety-related disorder that occurs after a traumatic event, such as military combat. Many of these soldiers are being either honorably discharged, or put on inactive duty. This seems to be the right call. According to the National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, there are four types of symptoms associated with the disorder; reliving the event, avoidance, numbing, and feeling “keyed up.” These symptoms generally start shortly after the traumatic event, but may not become visibly present for months or years after. They can also come and go over several years time, and have a tendency to seriously disrupt the affected person’s daily life, causing a parlous of delusional episodes. An unfortunate example of this horrifying truth is the recent rash of media coverage regarding soldiers killing their comrades.
Still, even with all the media coverage and the plethora of Hollywood produced Iraq war movies, (most notably, 2008’s “Stop Loss,” and 2006’s “Home of the Brave”) it’s been hard to fully empathize with the situation because of how surreal it all seems; that is, until I encountered the disturbing disorder first hand.
About 15 years ago I knew a boy, a sweet boy, whose adoration for Jim Morrison and The Doors symbolized his laid back persona. During that time, we shared a single moment, a moment which saw us lying on the pavement in the parking lot of the condominiums I once resided in. It was an unusually quiet summer day, not even the sound of traffic was present. It was just “me, you, and the birds.”
He carried that moment with him all these years, and about two years ago he re-located me on MySpace, but it wasn’t until recently that we were able to re-acquaint ourselves.
Over the phone he had revealed to me that he had been put on “inactive duty” and that during his visits at the VA hospital he had been diagnosed with PTSD. “Did they prescribe you any medication?” I asked. “Yeah, they tried to put me on risperdal, (a mood stabilizing/antipsychotic agent) but I self medicate,” he replied. I took his response with a grain of salt, and picked him up a few days later. When I arrived at his home, I walked in to see nearly the whole floor covered with beer cans. He had just woken up, and was shaky.
While this was a shocking sight to see, it was nothing compared to the ride back to my house. We picked up a six-pack on the way back, and as we drew closer to town his symptoms really began to show. He was extremely nervous, red-faced, shaky, and his eyes were constantly shifting back and forth, as if he were expecting someone or something to attack. At one point, in a Tourette’s syndrome-like fashion, he crunched himself into a partial fetal position, his arms protecting his face, saying “IED, IED.” (Improvised explosive device) My only response to his behavior was, “I can’t imagine what you must have seen out there,” to which he replied, “You don’t want to know.” By the next morning, he had gone through more than a 12-pack of beer, and upon waking was shaking and twitching in a manner I’d never seen before — a symptom, no doubt, of a combination of withdrawals and extreme anxiety.
Sadly, he is not alone in his suffering. There are thousands of men and women who are in his exact predicament and the VA hospitals don’t seem to be the proper solution. Settlements from the army aren’t going give these soldiers their lives back either.
So, just what is the solution? It seems the only sentiment left to give is a thank you- thank you for giving your life as you knew it for our great country
Annabella Hargrove is a freelance writer who resides in Murfreesboro, TN. Among projects she is currently working on a memoir.