GOOD

The Burden of PTSD: An Ongoing Conversation


Perhaps you've heard: PTSD among veterans returning from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq is a huge problem and we might not have the resources to deal with its ramifications. GOOD recently ran my feature on the subject, "The Memory War," and since then, I've had many conversations on the topic-ranging from readers' personal experiences, to sprawling discussions on the multifacted challenges facing service members suffering from PTSD. One such discussion, however, really forced me to take a step back.In an email exchange with Kathie Costos DiCesare, a Senior IFOC Chaplain, she expresses a view of the Army's Battlemind training program that I'd never heard, or even considered. For the unfamiliar, Battlemind is a training program used to try to counter the effects of war on armed forces. It's been heavily criticized as inadequate. DiCesare takes that criticism one step further."Battlemind and Warrior Mind both have the same problem and-it's my belief-have the most to do with the rise in suicides as well as attempted suicides," she writes. Both programs, she says, tell troops they can prepare their minds for war, implying that if they are somehow wounded by PTSD, it's their fault.She went on to tell me what while visiting a VA in Orlando with her husband (who is a Vietnam vet with PTSD), she met two Marines who had just returned from Iraq. She was wearing her Chaplain's jacket and offered the men help in filling out some paperwork they were struggling through."We talked for a while and then one Marine began to cry," DiCesare writes. "He told me that as a Marine, he's not supposed to be weak. He told me that he was just not strong enough." It took a while, she says, but she finally got through to the Marine, telling him that it was normal to feel these things after battle, and that quite the opposite was true: That he had shown tremendous courage."No one had ever told him that before," she writes. "This Marine had received the message of Battlemind and it told him that if he ended up with PTSD, it was his fault for not preparing mentally for the challenge of combat."Annette Yover, the veteran whose story I recounted in my article, experienced a similar flood of emotion when she returned from her service in the Navy. Upon realizing she could no longer cope with her daily work as a mortician at a civilian funeral home-a stumbling block that forced her to find a new career path-she was devastated.But as DiCesare explains, this burden is plaguing countless veterans, who return from war with unrealistic expectations of how they should behave and react to civilian life. As many veterans have recounted to me, they wish they could just switch off their military training when they return home. Of course it's not that simple. As the DOD, NIMH, and others continue to pour research dollars into the problem, America's veterans are still struggling, and often taking their own lives, as they wait for answers.Guest blogger Matthew Newton is a freelance writer.Image via
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