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May 12th, 2009
12:10 PM ET

The stress of war: helping our troops cope

A U.S. soldier is accused of killing five of his fellow troops at Camp Liberty near Baghdad. The soldier, identified by the military as Army Sgt. John M. Russell, is now charged with five counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault.

That disturbing and tragic event has a lot of us thinking about the stress troops face, and the issue of post-traumatic stress disorder.
While we don't know exactly what may have triggered the attack at Camp Liberty on Monday - and we don't know if Sgt. Russell was suffering from the disorder - we do know that PTSD is real, and many troops have it.
What triggers PTSD? And how do we support our troops coping with the scars of war?
Heidi Collins talked with our chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta, and Iraq war veteran Patrick Campbell.
Here's that interview:

See Heidi in the Newsroom, Monday through Friday 9a-11a et.

Filed under: Anchors • Heidi Collins
soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. johnchristopher

    I really hate to sound like John McEnroe, but, you cannot be serious that this man has been indicted for murder. The man was being treated (during his 3rd term in Iraq) for traumatic stress disorder and somehow he gets someone else's gun (because his has been taken away for obvious reasons) and he kills people (which is what he was trained to do). This is outrageous! When do the architects of WAR begin to take responsibility for the humanitarian holocaust and tragic events they have set in motion? It is said that if the president does it, it's not illegal. That may be, but it is immoral and, in the case of Iraq, the president who sent the soldiers, is as guilty of murder as any two-bit tyrant in history.

    May 12, 2009 at 1:14 pm |
  2. Larry Denman

    Hello Heidi:

    I have been watch you this AM on Newsroom. I am a Vietnam vet whose service has not yet and may never be declassified. I am not concerned for myself, but I am concerned for my son, whose documented service in Iraq has been sumarily dismissed by the VA. He was awarded an Air Force decoration for his actions, which have haunted and changed him since his return, again sumarily dismissed by VA. He says to leave it alone, but had he not taken the action, others may have been injured

    May 12, 2009 at 1:23 pm |
  3. Cass

    In our country, if the elephant in the room needs funding but does not yield immediate profit then the elephant will rot before it gets help. If the elephant goes on a rampage and injures someone, then we ask questions and hunt for solutions. Our soldiers have been killing themselves with alarming regularity and have received little more than a much ado about nothing response. Is this what we were waiting on to admit that there is a problem? Our soldiers are crying out for help. We all know it. Nothing's getting accomplished. Why?

    We have become a society of people who care little about issues unless they are directly touching "me or mine". We can not progress with this mentality and will surely digress further into an apparent and eerie emulation of the Romans. God help us all but especially our troops.

    May 12, 2009 at 1:31 pm |
  4. Jonathan Singleton

    Hey Heidi, I'm an Marine Corps Veteran. I've served in the Iraq War twice from March 2003 and 2004. I'm 29 years old, and was diagnosed with PTSD from combat deployment. Let me tell you, It's a mental image that is burned like any other traumatic experience that people face. People have to realize is this, When troops are called to go to War, they have to make up in their minds to accept death, whether their own, their comrades, and the enemy. The country sends young lives to go far and away to confront and disrupt lives of people they no nothing about. These are Wars that have been going on before America was America, of course we cannot let the enemy come in and disrupt our way of life, but why not? We needed a reality check! Come on America. I'd love to talk about this more.

    May 12, 2009 at 2:28 pm |
  5. johnchristopher

    Sgt. John M. Russell vs The United States of America...

    Clarence Darrow would defend Mr. Russell because Darrow always pleaded for human progress while being assaulted by the mongers of war and the merchants of greed. Sgt. Russell deserves a Darrow.
    When a man lives too long in the hell of war and seeks respite from the soul-destroying madness, he must be cared for in earnest. He is putting himself in the hands of healers because he can no longer trust his instincts. This care was not there and Sgt. Russell, allegedly
    killed five of his fellow soldiers – an act which a healthy Sgt. Russell could not even imagine. I can imagine no greater punishment than that Sgt. Russell recovers in the future and is confronted by what he has done. I grieve for all these men and their loving families.

    May 12, 2009 at 2:59 pm |
  6. Curly Top

    I am not surpirsed that this happened. PTSD has been around for as long as there has been war, only it has been called other things. We send our soldiers to war and expect there to be no effects from experiencing such horriffic occurances. We keep redeploying these soldiers (including all services) again and again. Shame on us. Instead of charging this soldier with murder, he should receive the treatment he deserves for all he has done prior to this incident. He is a victum of war as much as the fellow soldiers harmed/killed by his actions. I am a vet married to another vet who suffers from PTSD – 40 years after he went to Vietnam. I hope President Obama gets us out of this horrible war soon. Thanks.

    May 12, 2009 at 3:19 pm |
  7. janet

    let me guess .. psychotropic drugs involved? It's ironic, you can't get into the military if it's in your record that you are/were on psychotropic drugs (ADHD, etc) while growing up (which screws you up. . it's legalized speed people) .. but once you're in .. they give you all sorts of drugs .. That with the combination of the stress of WAR .. it's a deadly mix and that can do it. And they keep bringin' back for more and more tours. The whole thing is awful and sad for all. War sucks!! There are so many contradictions in the military and society; they offer counseling yet if you admit you need it, you have this label attached to your record and reputation for life. Can you imagine what it's done to the people of the host country? It's not like the Olympics. No one wants THAT job.

    May 13, 2009 at 3:00 am |
  8. HJK

    The family of Michael Edward Yates, one of the victims of the Sgt. John Russell, were before the cameras this morning discussing their feelings about the needless death of their son. Unfortunately, this family not only elected to display the confederate flag front and center within a cluster of flags, but they also flew it above the American flag. The first issue, flying the confederate flag, is disturbing and insulting to many, however, the second issue, flying it centered and above of the American flag is a serious breach of protocol and flag etiquette. Is it ignorance or a statement on the part of this family.

    May 13, 2009 at 11:14 am |
  9. ron redfield-lyon

    just saw the interview w/ the family of PfC Yates who was murdered by Sgt Russell (I think I have the name of the deceased correct) – Wed AM @ 10 have tosave this tape and get it to the VA and all Mental Health Clinics ...the mother has it right! she cites the "one size fits all" clinic trying to care for Russell and Yates who had different needs for different PTSD being described..

    May 13, 2009 at 11:16 am |
  10. Roger in Atlanta

    What does the father of one of the soldiers killed by a fellow soldier mean when he talks about fighting a "politically correct" war? I thought that statement was very strange.

    May 13, 2009 at 12:06 pm |
  11. Gerard Monaghan

    Things really have changed sine Vietnam. When I was the 25th Infantry Division's deputy personnel officer, we handled a "mass casualty" during the Cambodian incursion. In one of two units that had been pulled off line with 40% + casualties (no, you never saw that in the media), one soldier killed 16 and wounded another four. He was arrested, but I never learned the final disposition of the case. There was no investigation by the Secretary of Defense or anyone else outside the division. It was just another tragedy in a war full of tragedies. You may find interesting the book Blue on Blue which traces "friendly fire" incidents back as far as the ancient Greeks.
    Gerard J. Monaghan
    Lieutenant Colonel, AUS (Retired)

    May 13, 2009 at 12:17 pm |
  12. Brian Zielinski

    I am a disabled vet of the US Navy. I don't think that the VA is doing a very good job of patching up the soldiers coming home from overseas. I can only go on my own experience. I came home from NAB Little Creek, VA in 2001 and I was severely mentally challenged from my time in service. The VA and even Private doctors, diagnosed me with Bi-Polar Mania and PTSD. They handed me some meds and sent me on my way. I was refused councelling from the VA and had to turn to a Private MD. I refuse to go back to the VA after all this went on and no matter what they promise in the future, It won't change my opinion of them.

    May 14, 2009 at 10:05 am |

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