So of course I’m going to talk about the military – I always do that, for whatever reason. I was really happy to be browsing NPR.org the other day and find an article about PTSD and the American military – just after I had presented my slide blitz on PTSD. The article (I still don’t get how to make a link, so here’s the URL: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=131096642) focuses on Craig Bryan, a psychologist who has made huge strides in the research and understanding of those currently serving in the war-torn Middle East. His work is unique, in that he is not dealing with veterans weeks, months, or years, after the PTE (potentially traumatic event) has occurred, but rather hours or days after the bomb exploded or he/she was being shot at. He discusses that the traumatic PTE does not tell the whole story concerning PTSD development. What really happens, he says, is that the soldiers wear their bodies out on a day to day basis with benign stressors – such as the lack of hot food, a comfortable bed, and easy communication with loved ones. With a worn-out body, the soldiers are then exposed to warfare and terror, (read TE rather than PTE) and this catalyzes PTSD in a major way. Check out the article for more information.
It was great to see an article covering this topic on the home page of NPR – that much is true. I did have a problem, however, with some of the comments made by Bryan. He states that because of the military culture – one which places a high importance on mental strength – few veterans seek out help for PTSD symptoms upon their return home. He says, “The military culture is not quite amenable in going and asking for help from others. … Right now in the military, depending on the branch of service, about three-quarters of service members who kill themselves never come into a mental health provider [and] never reach out and ask for help. They’re out there somewhere but most of us don’t know where they’re at.” It seems to me, that if we know these heroes are in our communities, and need help, it is our responsibility to find them – and get them the care they need and deserve. Those that need the most help, are least incapable of getting it for themselves, and therefore we need to seek them out. So I guess I don’t take issue with Bryan’s comment itself, it’s more that I take issue with our country’s complacency in being an advocate for those who have placed their lives on the line for us. If they can’t find us, we need to find them. After all, they were living with cold food, uncomfortable beds, little access to their families, bombs, and warfare, for all of us.