Thursday, February 7, 2013

Reporters missing the points on Combat PTSD

Reporters missing the points on Combat PTSD
by Kathie Costos
Wounded Times Blog
February 7, 2013

There are some great questions the Associated Press asked about PTSD and these are the most important to understand.

More than 500,000 vets had a post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosis in fiscal year 2012
By Associated Press
Published: February 4, 2013

WASHINGTON — The shooting death of a former Navy SEAL sniper has brought attention to the problem of post-traumatic stress disorder, which has affected as many as 20 percent of veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Q: How many veterans are believed to be dealing with PTSD?

A: In the latest fiscal year ending Sept. 30, more than 500,000 veterans with a PTSD diagnosis were treated at hospitals and clinics run by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The numbers show that PTSD is not just a phenomenon of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Veterans from those wars made up only about a quarter of the patients treated last year with a PTSD diagnosis. That the vast majority served in the first Gulf War, Vietnam or earlier shows how long PTSD can last. The VA says that not everyone who gets treatment will be cured, but treatment can help people cope better with their symptoms.

Q: How is PTSD treated?

A: Everyone is different. Dr. Charles Marmar of New York University Langone Medical Center said that treating a highly-functioning person soon after their trauma can be accomplished in four to six weeks. But if a soldier served three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the PTSD is complicated by depression or drug use, treatments can last one or more years.

The two main treatments for people with PTSD are psychotherapy or medication, and sometimes both. It’s also important to get care from a mental health provider who is experienced with PTSD. In psychotherapy, patients work through how trauma changed the way they look at the world and themselves and how they can change their thoughts in a constructive way. A class of anti-depressants used in treating depression, called SSRIs, is effective in treating PTSD, too. Another medication called Prazosin has been found to be helpful in decreasing nightmares.

The 500,000 number of veterans treated for PTSD is vital whenever reporters have the subject of Combat and PTSD. That many veterans but few of them are committing crimes. There is yet another number they need to remind people of. That is the simple fact less than half of the veterans seek help for PTSD, in other words, the 500,000 represents less than half of the veterans with PTSD because of the stigma attached to it and denial.

Older veterans prove this point. They think they are able to "get over it" and just suffer from serial marriages, destroyed families, nightmares, flashbacks and mood swings, because they had a busy life until they retire. They are top veteran group committing suicide.

US military veteran suicides rise, one dies every 65 minutes
Published February 04, 2013

The most extensive study yet by the U.S. government on suicide among military veterans shows more veterans are killing themselves than previously thought, with 22 deaths a day - or one every 65 minutes, on average.

The study released on Friday by the Department of Veterans Affairs covered suicides from 1999 to 2010 and compared with a previous, less precise VA estimate that there were roughly 18 veteran deaths a day in the United States.

More than 69 percent of veteran suicides were among individuals aged 50 years or older, the VA reported.

"This data provides a fuller, more accurate, and sadly, an even more alarming picture of veteran suicide rates," said Democratic Senator Patty Murray of Washington state, who has championed legislation to strengthen mental health care for veterans.

The news came two weeks after the U.S. military acknowledged that suicides hit a record in 2012, outpacing combat deaths, with 349 active-duty suicides - almost one a day.

What they report on are crimes committed by them instead of the fact they are more likely to harm themselves than they are to harm someone else.

These veterans have risked their lives for those they served with. Don't reporters get that? Will they ever get that point? I doubt it. Ever since Chris Kyle was shot and killed while trying to help a Marine with PTSD they make it sound as if veterans are someone to fear yet the majority of murders are not committed by veterans.

If reporters keep getting this all wrong, then there is little hope the American public will get it right and even less hope they will ensure Congress gets any of this right for veterans' sake.

If they cannot grasp the number of older veterans suffering right now, then while there is a chance to reduce the suffering for the newer generation of veterans, it is all allowed to get worse now and we'll see the increase in veterans taking their own lives for many, many more years to come. Still the subject that is covered the least is what all of this does to families. No one is really talking about families forgotten by everyone.

Mental Disorders Among OEF/OIF Veterans Using VA Health Care: Facts and Figures
OEF/OIF Veterans Using VA Health Care
Veterans generally must enroll in the VA health care system to receive medical care; for information about enrollment, health benefits, and cost-sharing, see CRS Report R42747, Health Care for Veterans: Answers to Frequently Asked Questions, by Sidath Viranga Panangala and Erin Bagalman. From FY2002 through FY2012, 1.6 million OEF/OIF veterans (including members of the Reserve and National Guard) left active duty and became eligible for VA health care; by the end of FY2012, 56% of them had enrolled and obtained VA health care.

Second, some conditions may be understated, because veterans who have a condition might not be diagnosed (and therefore might not have the diagnosis code in their records), if they choose not to disclose their symptoms. Veterans might not want to disclose information that would lead to a diagnosis of mental illness. Veterans have reported not wanting to disclose trauma for fear that they will not be believed, that others will think less of them, that they will be institutionalized or stigmatized, or that their careers will be jeopardized, among other reasons.

Also, veterans using VA health care services may receive additional services outside the VA, without the knowledge of the department.