Here's a window into a tragedy within the American military: For every soldier killed on the battlefield this year, about 25 veterans are dying by their own hands. An American soldier dies every day and a half, on average, in Iraq or Afghanistan. Veterans kill themselves at a rate of one every 80 minutes. More than 6,500 veteran suicides are logged every year — more than the total number of soldiers killed in Afghanistan and Iraq combined since those wars began. These unnoticed killing fields are places like New Middletown, Ohio, where Cheryl DeBow raised two sons, Michael and Ryan Yurchison, and saw them depart for Iraq. Michael, then 22, signed up soon after the 9/11 attacks. “I can’t just sit back and do nothing,” he told his mom. Two years later, Ryan followed his beloved older brother to the Army.
Tag Archives | PTSD
Clancy Sigal writes at AlterNet:
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Military uprisings among the lower ranks have a long and fairly honorable tradition. The famous mutinies include Bligh’s HMS Bounty, the Indian Sepoy rising, Russian battleship Potemkin, British sailors’ strike at Invergordon, and lesser known mass revolts by French infantry divisions at the failed “Nivelle offensive” in 1917, Port Chicago in 1944 by African-American sailors refusing to unload dangerous cargo, U.S. soldier strikes in the Pacific against General MacArthur, and of course widespread GI resistance in Vietnam that broke the back of the war.
Afghanistan is an army mutiny by another name — on both sides. In “green on green” killings, Afghan soldiers have been on a spree killing American and NATO soldiers. Now an American sergeant, on his fourth combat tour, with previously diagnosed transitory brain injury, has “gone postal,” murdering 16 Afghans including women and nine children.
Yet the army doctors at the killer sergeant’s home base, Joint Fort Lewis-McChord, considered him “fit for combat duty” and as for his brain injury he was “deemed to be fine.”
Fort Lewis-McChord, in Washington state, is notorious for its cruel handling of returned combat veterans. Its forensic psychiatry unit at Madigan Medical Center had two doctors fired for mistreatment or otherwise ignoring soldier complaints.
Many commenters on CNN’s website believe this article unfairly conflates PTSD and homicidal behavior. What do you think?
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A man opens fire in a national park, killing a ranger who was attempting to stop him after he blew through a vehicle checkpoint.A second man is suspected in the stabbing deaths of four homeless men in Southern California.
Both men, U.S. military veterans, served in Iraq — and both, according to authorities and those who knew them, returned home changed men after their combat service.
A coincidence — two recent high-profile cases? Or a sign of an increase in hostile behavior as U.S. troops complete their withdrawal from Iraq, similar to that seen when U.S. troops returned home from the Vietnam War?
“You’re going to see this more and more over the next 10 years,” said Shad Meshad, founder of the National Veterans Foundation, who has been working with veterans since 1970.
From a 2009 article in the Boston Review by Tara McKelvey:
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When Roger Benimoff arrived at the psychiatric building of the Coatesville, Pennsylvania veterans’ hospital, he was greeted by a message carved into a nearby tree stump: “Welcome Home.” It was a reminder that things had not turned out as he had expected.
In Faith Under Fire, a memoir about Benimoff’s life as an Army chaplain in Iraq, Benimoff and co-author Eve Conant describe his return from Iraq to his family in Colorado and subsequent assignment to Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He retreated deep into himself, spending hours on the computer and racking up ten thousand dollars in debt on eBay. Above all, he was angry and jittery, scared even of his young sons, and barely able to make it through the day. He was eventually admitted to Coatesville’s “Psych Ward.” For a while the lock-down facility was his home.
Are the Israelis repeating Holocaust traumas upon the Palestinians? From the July 1992 issue of Washington Report on Middle East Affairs:
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Dr. Jan Bastiaans, a Dutch psychiatrist, is an authority on the Holocaust syndrome, and has treated many survivors. In 1973 he wrote, “In recent years the Ka-tzet (concentration camp) syndrome has suddenly received general recognition…This concept is concerned with…pathological processes that occurred after the war in former concentration camp prisoners…The Ka-tzet syndrome is the expression of a permanent, chronic obstruction of sound human relationships. The victims are not free from the concentration camp…Behind their adaptation facade continues to live the child or adult of [that time] in all fear, in all misery, in all powerlessness.”
Dr. Haim Dasberg, an associate professor of psychiatry at the Hebrew University and medical director of the Ezrat Nashim Jerusalem Mental Health Center, has written extensively on PTSD and the Israeli army.
Is this fun ‘Men In Black’ type stuff, truly useful in the ease of psychological pain from traumatic memories, or totally scary ‘Brave New World’ totalitarianism in the making? Scientists have found that proteins can be removed from the brain’s fear center to delete memories forever. Meredith Cohn reports for the Baltimore Sun, via the LA Times:
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Reporting from Baltimore — Soldiers haunted by scenes of war and victims scarred by violence may wish they could wipe the memories from their minds. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University say that may someday be possible.
A commercial drug remains far off — and its use would be subject to many ethical and practical questions. But scientists have laid a foundation with their discovery that proteins can be removed from the brain’s fear center to erase memories forever. “When a traumatic event occurs, it creates a fearful memory that can last a lifetime and have a debilitating effect on a person’s life,” said Richard L.
Shannon Brownlee writes in a U.S. News and World Report article, dated Nov. 3, 1996:
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Once viewed as genetically programmed, the brain is now known to be plastic, an organ molded by both genes and experience throughout life. A single traumatic experience can alter an adult’s brain: A horrifying battle, for instance, may induce the flashbacks, depression and hair-trigger response of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). And researchers are finding that abuse and neglect early in life can have even more devastating consequences, tangling both the chemistry and the architecture of children’s brains and leaving them at risk for drug abuse, teen pregnancy and psychiatric problems later in life.
Yet the brain’s plasticity also holds out the chance that positive experiences — psychotherapy, mentoring, loving relationships — might ameliorate some of the damage. Much remains unknown. But if scientists can understand exactly how trauma harms the brain, they may also learn much about healing broken lives.
Many veterans and others are using cannabis medically to treat the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), according to preliminary results of a new survey. Cannabis Science Inc., which describes itself as "an emerging pharmaceutical cannabis company," is reviewing the interim results of its survey of more than 1,400 people. "It is clear that many veterans are already using herbal cannabis to self-medicate to relieve the symptoms of PTSD," said Dr. Robert Melamede, president and CEO of Cannabis Science. "Consequently, there is a clear need for standardized, FDA approved, oral cannabis products which can, and should be, provided to veterans and others who can benefit from its use," Melamede said.