works to relieve the lasting effects of PTSD on war veterans with programs and services to help them cope.
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Help is on the horizon. To begin with, PTSD and other stress-caused problems are getting lots of publicity. Medal of Honor recipients do public service announcements urging soldiers to seek help and not be deterred by the stigma that often accompanies the “warrior ethos” – namely, if you have any kind of mental or emotional problem, just “suck it up” and go back to work.
Indeed, the vast majority of soldiers suffering from PTSD do not seek help, whether because of warrior ethos or fear of being disqualified from further deployments or advancements on “psychiatric” grounds, or just being prohibited from owning a firearm. And even for those relatively few who do seek professional help, the system is scandalously overloaded.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently excoriated the Department of Veterans Affairs for its “unchecked incompetence” in dealing with a flood of PTSD, depression and similar conditions, taking an average of four years to provide veterans their mental health benefits, and often taking weeks to get a suicidal vet his first appointment.
Even if an appointment is obtained, what help is available? Until recently, the choices have been primarily the psychiatrist’s couch and medications. Traditional “talk therapy” can be helpful, but depends on the skill of the practitioner and the willingness of the soldier to participate, perhaps over an extended period – something most warriors avoid.
On the other hand, psychiatric drugs, and particularly antidepressants, are very controversial. Although the Department of Veterans Affairs assures soldiers “a type of drug known as a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), which is also used for depression, is effective for PTSD,” many consider antidepressants part of the problem, not the solution.
Indeed, in a shocking 2008 cover story “America’s Medicated Army,” Time magazine revealed:
For the first time in history, a sizable and growing number of U.S. combat troops are taking daily doses of antidepressants to calm nerves strained by repeated and lengthy tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. … About 12 percent of combat troops in Iraq and 17 percent of those in Afghanistan are taking prescription antidepressants or sleeping pills to help them cope. Reporting that “about 20,000 troops in Afghanistan and Iraq were on such medications” – roughly half on antidepressants and the other half on sleeping pills like Ambien – Time noted, ominously:
Last year the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) urged the makers of antidepressants to expand a 2004 “black box” warning that the drugs may increase the risk of suicide in children and adolescents. The agency asked for – and got – an expanded warning that included young adults ages 18 to 24, the age group at the heart of the Army.
The question now is whether there is a link between the increased use of the drugs in the Iraqi and Afghan theaters and the rising suicide rate in those places. With suicides now an alarming 18 per day, and 950 attempts per month, it’s disturbing to note that almost 40 percent of the Army’s suicide victims in recent years have been on psychiatric drugs, especially SSRI antidepressants like Paxil, Effexor, Zoloft and Prozac.
“The high percentage of U.S. soldiers attempting suicide after taking SSRIs should raise serious concerns,” Harvard Medical School’s Dr. Joseph Glenmullen told Time.
America’s Medicated Army
Thursday, June 05, 2008
“Seven months after Sergeant Christopher LeJeune started scouting Baghdad’s dangerous roads — acting as bait to lure insurgents into the open so his Army unit could kill them — he found himself growing increasingly despondent. “We’d been doing some heavy missions, and things were starting to bother me,” LeJeune says.”
Is the U.S. Army Losing Its War on Suicide?
By Mark Thompson
Washington Tuesday, Apr. 13, 2010
“From the invasion of Afghanistan until last summer, the U.S. military had lost 761 soldiers in combat there. But a higher number in the service — 817 — had taken their own lives over the same period. The surge in suicides, which have risen five years in a row, has become a vexing problem for which the Army’s highest levels of command have yet to find a solution despite deploying hundreds of mental-health experts and investing millions of dollars. And the elephant in the room in much of the formal discussion of the problem is the burden of repeated tours of combat duty on a soldier’s battered psyche…”
American Forces Press Service
VA Strives to Prevent Veteran Suicides
WASHINGTON, April 23, 2010
“With more than 6,000 veterans committing suicide every year –- and 98 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan taking their own lives during fiscal 2009 alone — the Department of Veterans Affairs is redoubling its outreach to veterans and promoting its toll-free suicide-prevention hotline.
National statistics show that veterans constitute about 20 percent of the 30,000 to 32,000 U.S. deaths each year from suicide. Of an average of 18 veterans who commit suicide each day…”
American Forces Press Service
Officials Urge Collaboration in Suicide Prevention
WASHINGTON, Jan. 11, 2010
“There are no clear-cut answers to suicide prevention, but through collaboration and team work from federal and private institutions, the nation can better address the challenge, Defense and Veteran Affairs department officials said today.”
invites you to learn more about the NEW COPING STRATEGIES FOR PTSD by continuing to read…
Celebrating Over A Decade of Service