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May 23rd, 2009
04:17 PM ET

"Real Warriors" Campaign: Military combats stigma associated with PTSD

It's called an invisible wound of war –Post traumatic stress disorder.

A Rand Corporation study estimates nearly 300,000 U.S. troops who've served in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from either PTSD or major depression.

But only about half have reached out for help from a doctor.

Fredricka Whitfield talked to the highest ranking psychiatrist in the U.S. army - Brigadier General Loree K. Sutton to discuss what the military is doing to combat the stigma associated with PTSD so our service members can get the help they need.


Filed under: Fredricka Whitfield
soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. DJ

    I am a 100% service connected for PTSD and maleria. I had to fight the VA for three years to get the help and to be rated from the VA. I was forced to file BK and struggle through divorce. I stuggle every day with PTSD. I live 100 miles from the VA hospital. And the VA will not cover costs for mentall health were I live. I must travel to see my doctors and it seems to me after being in the VA system is all the VA wants to do is put us veterans on mentall drugs to keep us undercontroll.

    May 23, 2009 at 4:31 pm |
  2. will

    Fredricka Whitfield, I am an Iraqi veteran diagnosed with PTSD and believe it or not it hurts. It hurts to know that my Va medical center does not care. I have been waiting to hear from my third doctor about ptsd and you guessed it; I never got a call. I showed up one day about two months ago and bumped into him and stated my concerns. Well he said he would call but again never got a response. How does the va as well as dod expect us as veterans to try and cope when our va does not care. All they do is increase my dosage when they do see us and we have to wait months before we're seen again. And then they only change our drug(s) to shut us up. If it's not their problem thy're really not concerned. I know General E. Shinseki has alot to do ;but please general help those that have served.

    May 23, 2009 at 4:40 pm |
  3. Vicki E

    My interest is not in having this read on air. I do hope someone reads it and takes it seriously.

    Having worked at a Military base, as a mental health care worker was frustrating. It seemed that at every turn there was something interfering with giving the assistance these service members needed. First of all there are not enough mental health care workers on staff at any of these facilities to handle the needs of all of it's active duty and vets, retirees, and family members. Such road blocks begin with understaffing, NCO's or CO's that would not allow service members to make their appointments due to "my work schedule changed I can't come." I really wish journalist would dig deeper into this subject. It is much more involved than
    They should be getting better care." Of course they should.
    Perhaps asking the simple and old question of WHY, one might get answers and a possibility of solutions. That would be investigative journalism. As usual I have not heard from the "little guys" down in the trenches. The Generals usually don't know or can't say. The service member can't risk telling the truth, and if a mental health care provider is interviewed they have not been from behind their administrative desk in years.
    I also know the frustration of not being able to help those in need of assistance. I am a news junkie and have yet to hear many the complexities involved in this issue. If you think dealing with the federal government is filled with red tape, try dealing with the federal government and the military.
    The most fulfilling work I have ever done was with the Service Members and their families. They deserve more than what they are getting. The Mental health care departments also need more than they are getting in order to give the services they are trained to give.
    Vicki E
    Virginia

    May 23, 2009 at 5:15 pm |
  4. Richard

    I am a combat veteran of Gulf War I, Operation Desert Shield/Storm. When I came back I suffered from PTSD. I had typical symptoms and my family perceived that there was something "different" about my behavior, but neither I nor they were ever warned about PTSD or any "readjustment" problems to look out for. Problems began right away – I began having trouble within my relationships but I didn't think there was a problem, I believed I was "better" than before I deployed. Pressure would build up inside me, and every so often I would "blow up", it was a release, and I would feel better for a time and went on with life until the next episode. I can tell a long story with a lot of details, but this is not the venue and my experience has been know one really wants to hear it. Long story short, I eventually got arrested for domestic violence, battery. The state attorney had no mercy and the VA didn't take it seriously and/or denied it outright. I never had a single issue in my life before I served in a theatre of combat, but somehow that meant nothing, I was just branded a criminal and a wife abuser and pushed aside. One VA counselor even said he would treat me for PTSD but would not give an official diagnosis. That raised an eyebrow, but I was a slave to the system, and have been ever since. My life is irrevocably broken and I never felt like anyone cared what was happening to me. I see these soldiers coming back now, nearly 20 years later and it breaks my heart, and outrages me as well, to hear story after story of lives ruined from psychological injuries after returning home. I was, and have been abandoned and even punished and condemned by the US government. I hope people of influence help these young veterans, who had no idea or just refused to believe they could fall victim to PTSD, I did. I was just 20 years old when I came back, full of faith in my country and thinking it would always protect me they way I swore and served to protect it – by that I mean its citizens. I was completely wrong. Help combat veterans, they deserve special treatment. As for me, I picked up as many pieces of my shattered life as I can. I am happily married now and have a good life. My wife is very understand and has given me tremendous support, but my life has been altered more profoundly by my service than I ever expected or intended in the way it has. God bless America and forgive it for it's moral wrongs against its combat veterans. As a last thought; I cannot begin to say here all that needs to be said.

    May 23, 2009 at 6:19 pm |
  5. DrHMFIC

    I'm a medical physician with diagnosed combat-related PTSD. And guess what? I get treated the ame dismissive way or, on a good day, might get offered ADDICTIVE antidepressants. Meanwhile, I've bit by bit lost everything in my life that was important to me–marriage, friends that didn't understand, and career.I had severe injuries, for which I've rehabilitated (on my own, thanks NOT to any colleagues) most of the disability but wake up every morning, and all thru the night, with pain and difficulty moving about for the first couple of hours of the day–pain continues but I can usually ignore it. So I know what it's like, from both personal and professional views. So with that, here's my opinion.

    The vast majority of doctors, including in the VA, haven't got a clue for how to deal with PTSD. At best, there are a few geeks that have never been out of school or a white coat (and into real life on the streets and in the field), but have lots of academic theories and adamantly argue that research data is more objective and therefore more relevant than individual observations, and really considering what's going on in the real and painful lives of PTSD sufferers. But that would require having one's soul.

    The man who helped me start to get a handle on the matter worked for the VA for 30 years. He was humble. he listened. When he didn't know what to do he said so, and so I knew that he was sticking by me even when he didn't know what else to do. In other words, he worked from his heart as well as mind.

    Ultimately, in my view, PTSD is a demon that only we can exorcise ourselves, and it requires special kind of space and acknowledgment of the experienced effects as real, regardless if someone who wasn't there can't connect the dots. We need our sense of separation replaced with finding a way to carry the pain that remains–not the physical kind, I mean–forever, and start to allow happiness back into our lives. To all that read this, I tell you it can happen no matter how impossible it may seem at the moment. But it's difficult, and requires patience and renewed patience many times over. So it probably requires accepting on blind faith to persevere, because it takes so long to ever get back to a glimpse of hope, and then that first relapse into Discouragement makes it seem like it was all a joke to try.

    May 23, 2009 at 7:27 pm |
  6. DrHMFIC

    I'm a medical physician with diagnosed combat-related PTSD. And guess what? Other doctors treat me the same dismissive way. They refuse to help me with chronic pain or anxiety attacks, other than offering ADDICTIVE anti-depressants. Meanwhile, I've bit by bit lost everything in my life that was important to me–marriage, friends that didn't understand, and career. My situation includes having had severe injuries, for which I've rehabilitated (on my own, thanks NOT to any colleagues) most of the disability but wake up every morning, and all thru the night with pain, and difficulty moving about for the first couple of hours of the day–pain continues but I can usually ignore it. I know what it's like, from both personal and professional views. So with that, here's my opinion.

    The vast majority of doctors, including in the VA, haven't got a clue for how to deal with PTSD. At best, there are a few geeks that have never been out of school or a white coat (and into real life on the streets and in the field), but have lots of academic theories. They adamantly argue that research data is more objective–and therefore more relevant–than individual observations to really consider what's going on in the real and painful lives of PTSD sufferers. But that would require having one's soul, and and having the guts to really listen to what the life of a PTSD sufferer is like, and to be affected by it. most doctors don't stop to consider that if the story is too uncomfortable to hear, living with the experience is a tad harsher.

    The man who helped me start to get a handle on the matter worked for the VA for 30 years. Bob was humble. He listened. When he didn't know what to do he admitted it, and so I knew that, bottom line, he was sticking by me even when he didn't know what else to do. In other words, he worked from his heart as well as mind.

    Bob wasn't a doctor–his degree was in medical social work. The VA gave him a lot of resistance, and didn't approve of his approach. His approach saved my life and, if wishes can come true, maybe my story will help save someone else's.

    Ultimately, in my view, PTSD is a demon that only we can exorcise ourselves, and perhaps never fully–I don't know. But I do know without a doubt that PTSD recovery requires a special kind of space for being thus affected, and acknowledgment of the experienced effects as real, regardless if someone who wasn't there can't connect the dots. We need our sense of separation replaced with finding a way to carry the pain–not the physical kind, I mean–that remains forever, so that we can start to allow happiness back into our lives. To all that read this, I tell you it can happen no matter how impossible it may seem at the moment. But it's difficult, and requires patience and renewed patience many times over. So it probably requires accepting on blind faith to persevere, because it takes so long to ever get back to a glimpse of hope, and then that first relapse into Discouragement makes it seem like it was all a joke to try.

    Don't...give...up.

    Why? Because we're the walking wounded.

    All of us need all of you. We're the ones who are going to find a way to help our brothers and sisters, not the VA or the medical establishment. But the VA has the legal responsibility to support recovery from combat-related injury, including PTSD, even if it need be compelled.

    Your voice is your weapon. Do not be silent. Bother to write letters, and don't worry if it's well-enough written. Write to congressmen, the President, and the VA. Get onto Twitter and make a daily comment for how you're doing, good days and bad, so that others start to get a taste of what PTSD is really like, rather than TV images of a hallucinating maniac committed capital crimes. And file complaints with your local medical board for doctors who do cowardly things like promise to get back to you and don't, rather than admit they just don't know what to do.

    Maybe if they could put ego aside for a moment and listen, they would know what to do, and apparently we're going to have to shout a bit louder till we're heard. But as Americans that's one of our Rights, which you helped defend.

    God bless America, and each and every one of you. Thank you for your contributions to our country. Welcome Home.

    May 23, 2009 at 8:12 pm |
  7. Don W.

    I've been diagnosed with PTSD by 2 civilian Pyschologists and 1 VA Psychologist and the VA still refuses to acknowledge my diagnoses
    The first denial of my claim they denied it saying i only had a nervous condition.

    May 24, 2009 at 7:22 pm |
  8. Bill

    First of all psychologists are not physicians. They cannot diagnose anybody. Psychologists are non-medical, and are narrowly trained in an abstract, unaccountable field called "psychology". Psychology has absolutely no standing in science, or medicine. Its scientific reliability is questionable, and is based upon the psych bible called the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of "mental Illnesses"). The DSM is not based upon medical research but is voted upon by mental health professionals at their annual conference. Psychiatrists are physicians first and foremost. They must have a medical degree before going into this specialty. Psychologists are substandard healthcare professionals, and should be carefully supervised by nurses and physicians.

    April 29, 2010 at 12:04 pm |