Sunday, January 20, 2013

Combat PTSD and reading minds

Combat PTSD and reading minds
by Kathie Costos
Wounded Times Blog
January 20, 2013

Their minds can live in "castle dark or a fortress strong" but that all depends on how well they are understood in the first place and in the second place, what support they receive to make peace with where they go.
Gordon Lightfoot
If You Could Read My Mind Lyrics
If you could read my mind love
What a tale my thoughts could tell
Just like an old time movie
'Bout a ghost from a wishin' well
In a castle dark or a fortress strong
With chains upon my feet
You know that ghost is me
And I will never be set free
As long as I'm a ghost that you can't see
If I could read your mind love
What a tale your thoughts could tell
Just like a paperback novel
The kind that drugstores sell
When you reach the part where the heartaches come
The hero would be me
But heroes often fail
And you won't read that book again
Because the ending's just too hard to take

Suicides spike again at Fort Hood
By Jeremy Schwartz
American-Statesman Staff

Fort Hood — By 28, Sgt. Chad Williams had survived four deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan and returned as the kind of battle-tested noncommissioned officer that Army officials call the backbone of the modern military force. When Sgt. 1st Class Ermelindo Malave first met him in 2011, soon after both had returned from separate deployments, Williams cut a striking figure.

“All of the soldiers respected him. He was no excuses, always working,” Malave said. “I would feel safe going with him anywhere.”

But within a year, the former combat engineer’s life would end with a self-inflicted gunshot on the black asphalt of a Copperas Cove movie theater parking lot. In the days and weeks following the suicide, Malave and the rest of Williams’s unit would struggle to understand what went wrong.

“I wish I could read minds, see what’s inside my soldiers,” he said. “I wish.” Capt. Christopher Paine

Tracking a serial killer is about what happened at Fort Hood and the warning I gave right after the massacre. From the data, I was right.
Suicides at Fort Hood
2008: 14
2009: 11
2010: 22 Year after the shootings
2011: 10
2012: 19

The truth is, they can read the minds of their soldiers but first they have to understand them, remember the way they thought when they were their age and understand that what they say to them is not always what the soldiers hear.
“Most of our efforts up to this point have been focused on ‘Go get help, go get treatment.’ Well, most service members don’t want to do that because of mental health stigma,” Bryan said. “So focusing only on mental health care and treatment will never solve the problem; we need to make sure that we have effective strategies to go out to service members and prevent them from becoming suicidal in the first place.”

That is their first problem. When they say the troops can become mentally tough with resiliency training, they hear, they are mentally weak, so if they end up with PTSD, it is their weakness that caused it. When you take three soldiers, exposed them to an IED blowing up some of their friends, two may seem to have "gotten over it" but one will be having difficulty afterwards getting the images out of his head, stopping the flashbacks that cause his body to reenact the physical responses and being able to sleep without nightmares. He won't talk to his buddies because they seem fine and he was told if he trained right, it wouldn't have happened. In other words, he must have been mentally weak and the others are stronger.

To put this in a way that civilians can understand this, here's a scenario.

You get a new job. The human resource director thought your background would be a good fit for the job even though you have had no experience doing it. You go for training with an expert who tells you, "I have a 99% success rate and can train anyone unless they are not paying attention." When you cannot understand what he's talking about but no one else is having problems, you struggle through and end up failing, you think the problem must be you. After all, 99% of other people learned and the rest of your class did but you couldn't, so you must be the problem. What the instructor didn't tell you was that the 99% of the students he taught had experience at a lower level while you had zero history to fall back on.

That is what is going on with the people coming up with the Resiliency training. The troops have no experience with PTSD and do not understand why they have it when others do not.

Fort Hood convened a fatality review board to try to understand why the Mississippi native committed suicide and what lessons might be gleaned from his death. Such boards are activated after every death at Fort Hood and stem from a long-standing military tradition of dissecting important events through after-action reports.

But this assembled group was different than those in the early years of the wars: It included not just top Fort Hood officials and health and safety officers, but also most of Williams’ chain of command, an innovation officials say was installed by former Fort Hood commander Lt. Gen. Donald Campbell, who served there from April 2011 until late last year.

For several years, Fort Hood leaders have implemented a wide range of suicide prevention measures, including interactive role-playing exercises, intensive classes in so-called “suicide first aid,” and a resiliency campus, where soldiers and family members can receive everything from yoga classes and relationship counseling to financial advice. click links for more
All of this are parts of the same problem. No one is telling them why they have it. No one is telling them exactly what PTSD is and no one is telling them what they need to know to make peace with the trauma.

They had no experience to fall back on. Most had never seen a dead body until they see one in combat. Most had no experience shooting someone until they had to do it in combat. Most had no experience with bombs blowing up in the road until an IED explodes.

For those passed off as "never deployed" again the military leadership is discounting the fact that training in itself is traumatic for these young men and women. When they see an amputee they know it could be them later on. When they hear of a soldier being killed in action, they know their family could be getting a visit from a Chaplain one day. Some can pushed past all of that and make fine soldiers but for others, they run out of options. They may have discovered they made a huge mistake and shouldn't have joined in the first place since real training is nothing like the computer game they played. Then they are faced with trying to just get through it or quitting. Quitting the military is not like just giving two weeks notice and getting on with their lives because the discharge follows them the rest of their lives. They not only run out of options, they are dealing with the psychological price of being trapped into a situation they did not expect. Everyday of training adds to all of it for them. They see others doing fine with the training and again, they think there is something wrong with them. If they do not talk to their buddies, their buddies can't help them get through it.

If the DOD wants to stop all of this, they first have to understand it the way the young recruits do. They need to understand what they use for words is heard the same way it is intended.

The basic reason some end up with PTSD is not their "weak minds" but the strength of their ability to care. The more deeply they are able to feel things, the more they are susceptible to feeling the pain. If they are told it is because of what they lack, the stigma lives and they die. The job the military needs to do is use the unity to strength them and this can only be done when they stop telling them they are the problem in the first place.

If I could to it back in 1984, so can the military. We had been with some other Vietnam veterans after a dedication ceremony and I listened to what they said. These are their words just arranged differently. I wrote this under the name W.T. Manteiv, for We Trusted and Vietnam spelled backwards.
The things I’ve seen and done would boggle your mind.
I’ve seen the death and destruction created by mankind in the living hell that I walked away from but could not leave behind.
It all comes back to haunt me now and makes peace impossible to find.
The ghosts of the past that find me in the night
make me wonder if my life will ever be right.
I have tried to forget what I have done,
and now there is no place left to run.
All this in the name of glory!
There is no end to this horror story.
It still does not make sense even now that I am older,
why, when I was so young they made me a soldier
and why I had to be a part of that war
when I didn’t even know what we were there for.
At eighteen I should have been with my friends having fun
not patrolling through a jungle with a machine gun.
I did my part just the same, just for my country
and stood helplessly watching my friends die all around me.
I felt a surge of hate engulf my soul for people that I did not know
and saw children lose their chance to grow.
All this in the name of glory! There is still no end to this horror story.
There was no glory for guys like me
only bitter memories that will not set me free.
I can never forget the ones who never made it home
some of them dead and others whose fate is still unknown
and the stigma that we lost what was not meant to win
most of us carry that extra burden buried deep within.
All this in the name of glory!
Will there ever be an end to this horror story?