PTSD Update

Posted: August 24, 2012 in Uncategorized

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) released a special report in JUN titled, Parity for Patriots: The Mental Health Needs of Military Personnel, Veterans and their Families. The report calls for Purple Heart medals to be awarded for psychological wounds like posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and for military commanders at all levels to be accountable for suicide prevention and elimination of stigma. "NAMI is drawing a line in the sand with the Department of Defense," said NAMI Executive Director Michael J. Fitzpatrick. "Troops with invisible wounds are heroes. It's time to honor them. It will also strike a tremendous blow against the stigma that often discourages individuals from seeking help when they need it." The full report is available online at . It includes statistics, tables and charts including:
 One in five active duty military personnel have experienced symptoms of PTSD, depression or other mental health conditions
 One active duty soldier dies by suicide every 36 hour and one veteran every 80 minutes
 Suicides have increased within National Guard and Reserve forces, even among those who have never been activated and are not eligible for care through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
 More than one third of military spouses live with at least one mental disorder
 One third of children with at least one deployed parent have had psychological problems such as depression, anxiety and acute stress reaction
 The report's call to action includes increasing the VA's service capacity and having the U.S Department of Health & Human Services fully implement the 2008 mental health insurance parity law.
The report also calls on all Americans to "reach out, listen and care" to help veterans in need. "Simple things make a difference" said Fitzpatrick. "Give veterans rides, watch their children or grant them extra time off from work in order to make it possible for them to get treatment. Our troops don't leave wounded comrades behind. Don't leave veterans or their families behind." [Source: NAMI Website 2 Jul 2012 ++]



The most common misconception about post-traumatic stress disorder is that there is no effective treatment. Dr. Matthew Friedman, executive director of the Department of Veterans Affairs' National Center for PTSD, is working to get the word out that it's "very treatable." PTSD is more prevalent among service members today, with 17 percent to 20 percent of the troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffering from it, he said. But studies have shown that 80 percent of those, given proper treatment, are without symptoms after five years. The disease itself is far from new. "Homer was a vet," he said. "Achilles showed signs of PTSD." For centuries, he said, it was "the turf of poets and novelists." Shakespeare wrote about it, as did Charles Dickens. It was during the Civil War that doctors coined the term, "soldier's heart." The idea was that a soldier's heart rate, blood pressure and pulse rate were altered by war, and that led to personality changes.
Over the years, the disorder has had several names — shell shock, combat fatigue, combat exhaustion — but it has evolved to be understood as having psychological and physiological roots. The increase in PTSD patients is tied to the large number of military reservists serving in combat, Friedman said. Having social support — as full-time military personnel do — is one of the things that can prevent a traumatic event from escalating into PTSD, he explained. For those on active duty, the military is their life and their job. "Citizen soldiers don't have that same kind of support," he said. It's impossible to pinpoint who might develop PTSD. Most people who serve in a war zone, even those serving multiple deployments, don't get PTSD, he said. Others return home struggling after a single tour. "What's the difference?" he said. "Some of its luck. Some of its resilience."
Two kinds of therapy have been found to be most effective with PTSD, he said. Cognitive processing therapy and prolonged exposure therapy center on helping vets change how they interpret what is going on around them and learn to recognize and tolerate the triggers that can lead to attacks. Drugs known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors have been found to be helpful, he said. Fortunately, there is "major change" in the past 10 years in the public's level of understanding of PTSD, Friedman said, and "there are thousands of new, well-trained clinicians who are equipped to provide treatment." Technology, Web-based information sharing, mobile apps and social media make it easier to the get the message out about treatment, he said. The Department of Defense and the VA are working more closely to make sure veterans have access to treatment. The first step, he said, is to seek help. "There is no wrong door," he said. [Source: Lexington Herald-Leader Mary Meehan article 4 Jul 2012 ++]


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