mercredi, mars 02, 2005

Soldier's Heart or Nostalgia

Last night, Frontline had an excellent show on the psychological effects of combat on soldiers. I learned a lot watching it.

After Vietnam, 1 in 3 combat soldiers had some psychological injury that was noted upon return to civilian life. Imagine the impact to our combat veterans, and imagine the impact to their families and to the companies they work for. Alcoholism is a common result of these injuries.

They also traced the history of these psychological injuries.

After the Civil War, it was called nostalgia or soldier’s heart.

After World War I, it was called shell shock.

After World War II, it was called combat fatigue.

Only after Vietnam, with the expansion of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, was Post Traumatic Stress Disorder recognized as a mental illness directly attributable to being too long in the theater - to seeing and doing too many traumatic things.

Worse, the military has a tendency (it’s changing, but it’s still there) to discourage soldiers from seeking treatment for psychological injury. Problems that might be checked before they get out of control can become fatal because soldiers are so concerned about the stigmas associated with getting treatment. Worst of all is to ask for treatment while you are on active duty.

Anyway, I hope we will devote more time, energy and resources to expanding care for our combat veterans.