Wednesday, October 1, 2008

PTSD

The recent issue of The New Yorker published a very interesting article on PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) after coming home from war, specifically, in Iraq. The article, "The Last Tour" by William Finnegan, focuses on Travis Twiggs, an Iraq war army vet who killed himself in a joint suicide with his brother since he was suffering from PTSD.

PTSD is exactly what it sounds like: after facing a trauma, the victim faces a difficult time coming back to reality. They relive the incident(s) and feel the inability to go back to "normal" because they have been traumatized. Now, this happens often with war, but it can also happen from other types of abuse, i.e. domestic, rapes, murders, etc.

Even though PTSD is as old as war is, there is not much awareness about it. Twigg's family was unaware that he had this problem; otherwise, the parents said they would have sought treatment or would have treated him differently. Some people don't even know they have it, and they end up driving themselves (and others around them) crazy.

Unfortunately, Twiggs did not receive help and ended up shooting himself and his brotehr after trying to floor their car into the Grand Canyon. Twiggs felt responsible for deaths of his fellow soldiers and could not get over the murders and sights he saw in Iraq. He also did not have the structure or focus to go on missions that the army provided for him. All of these factors (and more that we'll never know) pushed him right over the edge.

An MTV movie, Stop-Loss, also represented characters who faced severe and less severe cases of PTSD.

The article had some interesting facts and statistics about PTSD:

"The suicide rate among veterans and active-duty military personnel has been rising. The number of soliders who killed themselves last year was the highest since the Army began keeping records, in 1980."

"Robert Gates, Secretary of Defense, is said to be considering PTSD sufferers eligible for the Purple Heart."

"A recent RAND Corporation study estimated that 300,000 veterans of American's post-9/11 wars--nearly 20% of those who have served--are suffering from PTSD or major depression, and many more cases are expected to surface in years ahead."

"The same RAND study found that, mainly because of the stigma still attached to PTSD, only half of those afflicted seek treatment."

The following statistics about PTSD come from PBS:

-The following factors increase the likelihood of PTSD: Youth, a history of depression or trauma, multiple deployments, and relentless exposure to violence.

-30.9% of Vietnam veterans in one study had developed PTSD during their lifetimes.

-Between 1999 and 2004, the number of veterans seeking benefits for PTSD increased 79%.

-In Iraq, roughly one in six combatants has experienced PTSD.

-35 percent of Iraq veterans sought psychological counseling within a year of coming home, according to the Department of Defense.

And lastly, the following statistics come from The War List: OEF/OIF Statistics and the book Moving A Nation to Care: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and America's Returning Troops.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) - Evolution

OIF troops wishing for a 2006 exit of Iraq, Zogby early 2006 survey: 72%
OIF troops wishing to "stay as long as needed:" 1-in-5
OIF troops who indicated "felt in great danger of being killed" on DoD demob form: over 50%
...had thoughts of killing themselves while deployed: 2,411
Returning vets who had PTSD one month after returning home: 4%
...four months after returning home: 9%
...seven months after returning home: 12%
Seven-month vets showing no signs of PTSD/depression at one month: 78%
Troops meeting DoD criteria for PTSD, stigmatized from seeking help: 2/3
PTSD rate common to Army/Marine ground units vs. other units: nearly 4X
Non-OEF/OIF troops reporting mental health concerns: 8.5% (2004)
OEF troops reporting mental health concerns: 11% (2004)
OIF troops reporting mental health concerns: 19% (2004)

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) - History

Hospitalized Civil War troops diagnosed with insanity/"nostalgia": 7,800
Post-war mental/"nervous" disease ("irritable heart") vets, Civil War: 44%
Portion of troops aged 9-18, Civil War: 15%
...increased likelihood of above group of getting "irritable heart": 93%
Civil War vets losing at least 5% of company, increase in risk for cardiac, gastrointestinal, or nervous disease: 51%

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) - Women

Vietnam-era veterans developing PTSD: 1/4
Gulf War-era veterans w/PTSD, 2 years after deployment: 16%
Rate of female-to-male combat PTSD: 2-to-1
VA-treated females noting rape/attempted rape while in service: 1/4
...raped multiple times: 37%
...gang-raped: 14%
Military sexual assaults reported, 2005: 2,374
Military sexual assault investigations, 2004-2005: 3,038
...of above, resulting in court-martial of perpetrator: 329 (10%)
OEF/OIF vets diagnosed with possible PTSD: ~3,800
Inpatient PTSD programs serving women exclusively: 2

So what do you think of PTSD or what's being done (or not) about it?

2 comments:

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