Collateral Damage: Combat Vets, PTSD and How to Get Help

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2013-12-31 12:07

One soldier returns home from a tour in Afghanistan, where he saw a great deal of combat. He takes time to unwind, reacquaint himself with his family and then finds a good job and picks up his life pretty much as it was before going off to serve his country.

A second soldier comes home from combat and has difficulty fitting back in. He may be anxious, fearful, depressed and have trouble concentrating or sleeping. Television reports of combat or a war movie he comes across while channel surfing may set him off, triggering either erratic behavior or withdrawal from friends and loved ones.

Which one has Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome?

The answer is, maybe both. Something is clearly bothering the second soldier, but the seemingly fine first soldier could have a delayed onset of PTSD.
So how can you tell if a friend loved one or friend is experiencing a post-traumatic reaction – and what can you do about it?

First of all, reactions to trauma are actually very “human” in the context of combat or a dramatic event, such as Superstorm Sandy, which hammered the East Coast in October 2012. Events like that may shake us to our psychological core.

It is especially hard for combat vets; the brave men and women were threatened with physical harm every day. Some 600,000 combat soldiers will return from Iraq and Afghanistan in the years to come. Some statistics suggest that our veterans are not receiving the support and services they need to make this transition. A survey of more than 700 returning vets indicates that 56 percent said they wanted or needed mental health treatment, and 50 percent of those reported that the treatment they received was “minimally adequate.” The unemployment rate is higher for vets than non-vets, and the Veterans’ Administration recently reported that a vet dies by suicide every 80 minutes.

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