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Letting Down PTSD Veterans

soldiers

Today I read a story in Time magazine about a Marine Sergeant David Linley. As the author of the piece Mark Thompson said, “When his nation called, he answered. But when he came home hurting, his country let him down.” Mr. Linley during an attack of PTSD engaged in a shootout with police, not wounding any of them, but obviously self medicated with alcohol and re-living a wartime episode. He is presently in prison in Illinois.

Reading about Mr. Linley brought to mind the many stories I have read and heard first hand of returning soldiers not finding the help they need to deal with PTSD or other mental ills. In Mr. Linley’s case, he sees a psychiatrist about every six months for 30 minutes and that is supposedly because he’s not behaving poorly.

John Maki who heads the Chicago based John Howard Association of Illinois dedicated to improving the state’s prisons, says in the article, “There’s a real lack of capacity to deliver any meaningful mental health care, especially specialized care like PTSD treatment for veterans.”

And this is not just in the Illinois prison system but throughout our country. Veterans are returning wounded mentally and they are not receiving the treatment they need. For those incarcerated, mental health treatment is spotty at best. Psychiatrist Stephen Xenakis, a retired Army brigadier general says, “These cases are much too common. We are throwing these guys away.”

Our veterans are returning to families they do not know. The families are dealing with a person who is not the same. Episodes happen that cannot be explained. Care is difficult to come by and the stigma of owning up to PTSD is strong.

What has been your experience with PTSD and a loved one? Has the government been there for you? Have you endured frustration beyond belief? What have you learned? What do we need to teach others about PTSD? What can people do to help? I’m at a loss for what to do, what to say.

– Bernadette

PTSD, Depression and Courage

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer four years ago, I learned as much as I could about the disease and its treatment.  I thought I was prepared.  However, I was not prepared for the emotional ride that took place.  No one talked about it.  No one acknowledged that it was part of the situation.  Instead, I learned about it after the fact and I got it confirmed on a recent post from PTSD Perspectives, an excellent blog dealing with the subject.  Check it out at http://ptsdperspectives.org/category/ptsd-blog/

I was not prepared for the emotional ride that had me crying when I least expected to.  It had me feeling like I was in another person’s body, observing what was going on.  It caused me to be in a place that I neither knew nor trusted.  I was the proverbial stranger in a strange land.

What was going on was post traumatic stress.

I encountered PTSD again at a meeting Amy and I were giving for caregivers.  One of the participants was the sister of a soldier returned from Iraq.  She had observed the changes in her brother, had seen the mood swings, had noted the strangeness at times of his behavior, dealt with his depression.

What she wanted was not just for him to feel better.  She wanted, as she put it, her brother back.  She went on to talk about how they would have talked about anything and everything, how they could laugh and cry together and have a good time.  That was no more.  Another person had taken over.  She missed her brother, and not only was he dealing with PTSD, she was also.

There are different levels of PTSD that affect individuals but whatever level a person may have, it does not make it any less difficult.  PTSD also affects those who love and care for those with full blown PTSD.  These caregivers need to learn how to deal with a “new” person, one who has been shaken to the core by a very difficult situation, to stay centered despite the surrounding depression.  The caregivers have to deal with a new person, grieve the loss of the old one, and at the same time help their loved ones through the terrors that haunt them.

I am reminded of the words of Solomae, a spiritual teacher, who wrote, “Opening the heart is an act of courage.  Keeping it open is an act of love.”  That’s what people with PTSD and depression and those who love and care for them have to face each and every day.  They are courageous people.

-Bernadette

Help for soldiers dealing with depression and other issues

The Center for Veterans Issues is an organization that is to be commended.  Not only do they help returning veterans with finding housing, dealing with post traumatic stress, financial situations, or drug abuse, they are all about treating the entire person and for returning veterans, that often means their families as they struggle to re-connect.  The center has a host of programs operating. Continue reading