Monday, November 9, 2009
New York Times
November 7, 2009
Stress Beyond Belief
By BOB HERBERT
The authorities will deal with Nidal Malik Hasan, the Army psychiatrist who is accused of bringing the nightmare of mass murder into the sanctuary of a military base on American soil. But the rest of us need to look very closely at the stress beyond belief that is being endured by so many other men and women in the armed forces — men and women who are serving gallantly and with dignity, who have not taken out their frustrations on one another, and who deserve better from the broader society.
Simply stated, we cannot continue sending service members into combat for three tours, four tours, five tours and more without paying a horrendous price in terms of the psychological well-being of the troops and their families, and the overall readiness of the armed forces to protect the nation.
The breakdowns are already occurring and will only get worse as the months and years pass and we remain engaged in the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. None of this is the military’s fault. There have not been nearly enough people willing to serve in the all-volunteer armed forces to properly staff two wars that have already gone on for the better part of a decade.
I spent some time on the West Coast recently interviewing doctors and researchers studying the enormous problem of troops returning from Afghanistan and Iraq with some form of mental health disorder, most commonly depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, or P.T.S.D. The caseloads are off the charts, and very often the P.T.S.D. or depression (or both) are accompanied by substance abuse, problems with anger management, domestic violence and family breakdown.
These are not weak men and women we are talking about. This is the toll that the horror of combat, especially repeated doses of it, takes on people — even those who are young, physically fit and mentally sound.
“These invisible wounds of war are profound and relatively common,” said Dr. Charles Marmar, a psychiatrist and one of the nation’s leading experts on stress-related disorders. “Pound for pound, they may be more disabling than physical wounds. People often don’t seek treatment for P.T.S.D. or depression or psychosis, and they are very disabling without proper treatment.”
At the time I interviewed Dr. Marmar a few weeks ago, he was the chief of psychiatry at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in San Francisco and vice chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco. He is to become chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at New York University on Dec. 1.
Both Dr. Marmar and a colleague at the medical center, Dr. Karen Seal, noted the link between multiple deployments and an increased risk of mental health problems. “We know there is a statistically significant association between having more than one deployment and P.T.S.D.,” said Dr. Seal.
Dr. Marmar added, “The Department of Defense is losing people right now — war fighters are being disabled by P.T.S.D. every day.”
The military has been trying to cope, but the challenge is enormous and there are significant institutional obstacles to overcome. Just last week, Defense Secretary Robert Gates spoke publicly about the widespread fear among military personnel that they will be stigmatized if they seek help for psychological problems. And he criticized the military and government bureaucracy for often complicating the efforts of individuals who are trying to get help.
The fallout from the mental health challenges facing America’s fighting men and women is vast, and it descends most immediately on close relatives. We have laid an unconscionably heavy burden on the volunteers and their families. The wives, husbands, children and parents bleed emotionally right along with those who are sent into the war zones.
This small sliver of the overall U.S. population has carried the burden of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, mostly without complaint, for years. It’s time to reassess what we’re doing to them.
By the end of last summer, the Army was reporting the highest tallies of soldier suicides since accurate record-keeping began. We’re getting saturation media coverage of Thursday’s outburst of horror at Fort Hood, but we haven’t heard a lot about the scores of suicides at that same base — the highest of any U.S. military installation — since the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
If we’re going to fight wars as a nation, then we need to draw our warriors from a wider swath of the population and give them the full and complete support that they need and deserve. We’ll no doubt be analyzing the twisted psychological state of Nidal Malik Hasan every which way from sundown. But we’ll continue to give short shrift to the daily struggles and frequent horrors of the honorable men and women who have taken on the thankless task of fighting our wars.
This is not just shameful, it’s unsustainable.
Friday, September 11, 2009
“Mr. Inspiration” will appear at Sacramento City College Event, 2009 Returning Home, From Combat to College and Beyond
Bob is a remarkable athlete (2005 Named One of the Top 100 Sports Stories in the past 100 years, an author (One Step at a Time: The Remarkable True Story of Bob Wieland), a remarkable motivational speaker, and soon plans to produce a movie about is experiences and life.
So, why is motivated enough to motivate others? Well, according to a 4 star review of Super Hero Bob Weiland and his accomplishments at http://www.squidoo.com/bobwieland, Bob is a double amputee, having lost both legs in Vietnam in 1969. He heroically came home and went on to build himself and his life up to his highest potential, becoming what some might refer to as “Self-Actualized” to the max! Now he passes on his wisdom, experience, enthusiasm for life, and encouragement to veterans from all wars and today’s returning vets.
Come One, Come All…you won’t want to miss this exceptional opportunity to hear one of America’s greatest motivational speakers present his experience, strength, and hope to you, presenting at the 2009 Returning Home, from Combat to College and Beyond on Friday, Sept. 21st at Sacramento City College. We urge you to register for FREE parking pass and FREE lunch at www.sacvcsn.org by Sept. 21st to reserve your spot!
Thursday, September 10, 2009
The primary purpose of this event is to raise awareness, increase sensitivity, and inform veterans, students, and educators on how to assist in the success of veterans who enter higher education. Educators, students, and veterans, and the general public from California, Nevada, and surrounding communities are invited and encouraged to attend.
Topics to be discussed include Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Military Sexual Assault (MSA), Suicide Prevention, Veteran Clubs, college services, and appropriate responses to these kinds of conditions.
Guest Presenters include Keynote Speaker John Schupp, PhD, who runs the Supportive Education for the Returning Veteran (SERV) at Cleveland State University; Bob Weiland, “Mr. Inspiration”,
a double amputee Vietnam Veteran, Motivational Speaker and outstanding athlete; and Michelle Wild, M.A., Coastline Community College Faculty who specializes in technology assisted education.
Pre-registration by Sept. 21st for FREE parking pass and lunch are strongly recommended. Go to www.sacvcsn.org to submit registration online.
Exceptional Presenters Slated for Free event, Returning Home, from Combat to College Event at Sacramento City College, Sept. 25, 2009
One such guest presenter is Michelle Wild, a Cal State Fullerton graduate who earned a Masters in Psychology and teaches at Coastline Community College. Wild is the Co-Department Chair for the Acquired Brain Injury Program. Her innovative approach to enable and enhance learning includes using technology such as PDAs, personal digital assistants, as cognitive prosthetic devices. She teaches cognitive retraining onsite as well as via distance modalities, including cable television, internet, and online courses.
Earlier this year, Wild presented “Online Cognitive Boot Camps for TBI Wounded Warriors and Their Caregivers” at both the Virginia Advisory Council on Military Education Serve, Support, Educate, Conference in Williamsburg, VA and the Council of College and Military Educators Embracing Our Heroes-Shaping Our World”, Honolulu, Hawaii.
Please register in advance to attend this conference at http://www.sacvcsn.org. Submit your registration online before Sept. 21 and receive a FREE PARKING PASS and receive a free lunch…yes, sometimes there are free lunches!
Friday, August 28, 2009
If you have any questions, please email email@example.com and a volunteer will respond to you. Thank you, we welcome you to join us in supporting our veterans as they return home to re-integrate back into our social system.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
"As the war in Iraq continues, the first measures of it's psychological tolls are coming in. A medical study estimates that more than one in seven returning veterans are expected to suffer from major depression, anxiety, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder".
To read the transcripts of this important broadcast, go to http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/heart/etc/script.html
Here are some exerpts of the transcripts from this important television broadcast:
"NARRATOR: In the Civil War, soldiers who showed signs of such a disorder were said to have "nostalgia" or be suffering from "soldier's heart." In World War I, the condition was called "shell shock," in World War II, "battle fatigue."
Lt. Col. DAVE GROSSMAN: In World War II, we really had the first real understanding of the post-traumatic casualties and psychoses and the neuroses that would derive from it, but it wasn't until Vietnam that we really put our finger on it.NARRATOR: Nearly one in three Vietnam veterans would eventually suffer from emotional problems. At first, they were said to have "post-Vietnam syndrome." But after years of study, it became clear that all of the various names were describing the same reactions to combat and a specific syndrome. The American Psychiatric Association created a new diagnosis which included both psychological and biological symptoms. They called it "post-traumatic stress disorder," or PTSD.
Lt. Col. DAVE GROSSMAN: Folks, the point I want to make to you is this. Your enemy is denial."........
"ROB SARRA: There's a connotation by your name, at that point, kind of a little check by your name, like, "OK, now he's," you know, "saying he's got combat stress," or whatever. The thing is, you're not supposed to show any weakness. And refusing to go on a mission and then me saying, "I've got to go get some help" are two things that really showed weakness.
And mainstream Marines are, like, "What's wrong with this guy?" You know, "He's a sergeant. Sergeants are supposed to be supermen."ANDREW POMERANTZ, M.D., U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs: The stigma to receiving mental health services inside the military is huge. I think the biggest barrier that I hear about is being thought of as a wimp— you know, someone who just can't hack it in the midst of a culture of people who can."......
"NARRATOR: In late September, 2003, Staff Sergeant Andrew Pogany arrived in Iraq. Andrew was a military interrogator and a member of the U.S. Army special forces, one of the most elite units in the military. Less than a week after landing in country, Andrew saw the mutilated body of a dead Iraqi and began to suffer from panic attacks.
Staff Sgt. ANDREW POGANY, U.S. Army Special Forces: I started shaking. I was sweating. It got to the point where I was hallucinating. The most frightening or bizarre thing about it was that I had no clue as to what was happening. And I couldn't turn it off and it wouldn't go away, and I couldn't clear my mind.NARRATOR: After two days with no relief, Andrew was sent north to Tikrit, where he met with a mental health specialist in the field.".....
"NARRATOR: Cheyenne recommended Andrew be given the standard treatment for someone with combat stress, three days of rest with the "Restoration Team."
CHEYENNE FORSYTHE: We delivered our recommendations to Sergeant Pogany's command one or two days later, and that's when I saw what Sergeant Pogany was up against.
NARRATOR: According to Andrew, his command had opposed his requests to get help from the start. Now his command refused the Combat Stress Control Team's recommendations. As Cheyenne looked on, he says, Andrew's sergeant major ordered Andrew to stay away from his fellow soldiers, calling him a coward."
CHEYENNE FORSYTHE: It was shocking to see how the sergeant major responded. It was shocking to see him berate Sergeant Pogany in front of us.
NARRATOR: Andrew says the verbal attacks continued the next day.
ANDREW POGANY: They berated me for an hour. They called me everything from a failure to a coward to telling me that if this would have happened 50 years ago, they would take me out back and just shoot me. And at that point, I'm just, like, stunned.NARRATOR: Andrew was sent home by his command to Fort Carson, the base from which he had deployed. And one week later, he was charged with cowardly conduct before the enemy.".....
"NARRATOR: In fact, when the Army did their own survey of troops serving in Iraq, nearly half of those most in need of psychological help reported that they felt if they asked for such help, their leaders would blame them for the problem, that they would be seen as weak and that their unit would have less confidence in them."
Monday, August 24, 2009
Here is one Sacramento veteran’s viewpoint on the emerging comparisons between Vietnam and Afghanistan, submitted to the Veterans Community Support Network. This VCSN member knows what our veterans and active military are going through right now...from experience.
"I volunteered for the Army because I couldn’t get a job until after my military draft requirements were fulfilled. I served in 1966 (MACV in Tan Son Nhut) during the early stages of the Vietnam War while U.S. forces were still ramping up.
Peter Baker’s enlightening but sobering article,“Could Afghanistan Become Obama’s Vietnam?” (New York Times, 22 Aug 2006), triggered deep memories and foreboding emotions that those of us who share a kinship with those currently under fire could become victims of circumstances not of their choosing.
An important role for the Veterans Community Support Network over the next few years will be to help differentiate the responsibilities between (A) our country’s warriors who execute orders they gave an oath to obey, and (B) our country’s elected officials and others in the media who may have an axe to grind against whomever is our commander-in-chief at the time.
In the coming months and years, we are likely to hear disparagement of America’s efforts and strategies in Afghanistan as well as Pakistan. These voices will likely claim that the situation is “unwinnable” or there is no common understanding of what “victory” is. We will also hear voices from the other side of the question who will claim that we cannot revise our troop deployment plans downward because it will cause the sacrifices in blood and treasure already spent to be dishonored. In the middle, the troops who have been, are, or will be deployed to help stabilize this dangerous part of our world will be caught in the middle, trying to do their jobs, with uncertain support by the U.S. public.
A recent poll of Americans revealed ominous findings by showing for the first time that 57 percent of Americans think things are going badly for the United States in Afghanistan, compared with 33 percent who think they are going well (New York Times and CBS News, July 2007).
How this will all play out over the next few years is very uncertain and difficult to predict. What is not uncertain and not difficult to predict, however, is that these hostilities will present tremendous challenges to America’s military forces and their families. These challenges will become increasingly difficult to address, particularly those challenges that compete for resources needed by other worthy efforts.
With this in mind, the Sacramento VCSN is to be congratulated for launching a cohesive effort to make sure that this time, our returning warriors are treated with the respect and dignity they deserve, even if the public mood toward that conflict turns more negative as the difficulties in achieving success become even more apparent."
Sunday, August 23, 2009
The purpose of this committee is to provide information on upcoming Veterans Job Fairs/Benefits Workshops and Hire a Vet Job Fairs to VCSN membership who in turn forward to veterans and all service providers. Members provide information on job opportunities to VCSN membership who in turn forward to veterans and all service providers. We contact and invite potential employers to Veterans Job Fairs/Benefits Workshops and Hire a Vet Job Fairs throughout the greater Sacramento area. Committee members host and/or support a series of Veterans Job Fairs/Benefits Workshops and Hire a Vet Job Fairs throughout the greater Sacramento area. Our goal is to establish a Veterans’ Employment Committee with its own funding to assist veterans with items such as special clothing, licenses, certificates, etc., as necessary for employment; also to establish Employment Assistance Networks & Work Programs for veterans.
The purpose of this committee is to provide veterans-specific seminar workshops to deal with veterans issues such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI), Job Retention and Substance Abuse. We strive to provide a forum to address the signature injuries of the most recent conflicts – PTSD and TBI– which are often undiagnosed until after some trauma has occurred. Our goal is also to provide a forum to focus on the family of returning veterans and the difficulties in adjusting to normalcy after living in an asymmetric combat zone. We are in process of forming a day-long educational event on Septemeber 25th at Sacramento City College to elevate public awareness and understanding of the signature injuries referred to above as well as sensitize educators to issues specific to veterans in the classroom.
The purpose of this committee is to provides outreach and link homeless veterans to housing service organizations, locate available federal & state government resources for housing projects, and to submit applications for every possible avenue of housing funds. Our goal is to create suggestions for housing solutions, locate and recommend sites for temporary and permanent supportive housing for veterans, and develop a permanent "ALPHA house" forSacramento area veterans.
The purpose of this committee is to research organizations that meet veterans varying health needs, locate free medical, dental and vision services available for dishonorably discharged veterans and veterans without insurance for these services, and distribute the information to Sacramento Veterans Community Support Network members who will forward the informtion to veterans in need and all service providers. Our goal is to provide a range of health-related support services, all intended to facilitate the veterans’ “transition home” experience.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Funding continues to be needed to provide travel and lodging expenses for the event's keynote speaker, John Schupp from Cleveland, and three other speakers who are traveling from southern California. VCSN believes a continental breakfast should be available to all attendees since the program begins at 8am on Friday, September 25, 2009. A "Welcome" reception is planned for out-of-town guests, speakers, and personnel from the California Department of Veterans Affairs, Sacramento County, Sacramento City College, and others amounting to a group of about 25 people is planned for the evening prior to the event.
Since the day-long event will include some panel discussions, VCSN would also like to give our veteran panelists a stipend for being on the panel to help pay for gas. VCSN will continue to evaluate how best to facilitate collaboration among disparate local programs serving the multiple needs of miltary veterans and their families in the Sacramento Area. This program is only one of many ways VCSN is able to assist our veterans with their overall education.
Transitioning back into life from Iraq, Afghanistan, or anywhere else for that matter is difficult. Many veterans returning from active duty as far back as World War II have been expected by society to just jump back into a normal life as if nothing has interfered with or affected their lives. We know that is not possible.
If you are able or interested in supporting the mission of VCSN to educate, communitcate, and advocate for veterans issues financially, or in any other way, please contact VCSN Board President, Jan Wald at 916 622-7360 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. We thank you!
Friday, July 17, 2009
PUBLIC HEALTH & EDUCATION
11. Mental Health Issues Among Veterans Increase Dramatically [Jul 17, 2009]
A new study finds more veterans being diagnosed with mental health issues. The study was posted Thursday on the web site of The American Journal of Public Health. The New York Times reports: "A new study has found that more than one-third of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans who enrolled in the veteran’s health system after 2001 received a diagnosis of a mental health problem, most often post-traumatic stress disorder or depression. The study by researchers at the San Francisco Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the University of California, San Francisco, also found that the number of veterans found to have mental health problems rose steadily the longer they were out of the service. The study, released Thursday, was based on the department health records of 289,328 veterans involved in the two wars who used the veterans health system for the first time from April 1, 2002, to April 1, 2008." The Times reports: "The researchers found that 37 percent of those people received mental health diagnoses. Of those, the diagnosis for 22 percent was post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, for 17 percent it was depression and for 7 percent it was alcohol abuse. One-third of the people with mental health diagnoses had three or more problems, the study found. The increase in diagnoses accelerated after the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the researchers found. Among the group of veterans who enrolled in veteran’ s health services during the first three months of 2004, 14.6 percent received mental health diagnoses after one year. But after four years, the number had nearly doubled, to 27.5 percent. The study's principal author, Dr. Karen H. Seal, attributed the rising number of diagnoses to several factors: repeat deployments; the perilous and confusing nature of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, where there are no defined front lines; growing public awareness of PTSD; unsteady public support for the wars; and reduced troop morale" (Dao, 7/16). Forbes reports: "Curiously, the researchers from the San Francisco VA Medical Center found that most mental health diagnoses were not made in the first year that a veteran entered the VA health-care system, but several years after. This finding supports the recent move to extend VA benefits to five years of free health care, which allows VA doctors the time to detect and treat more mental illness in returning combat veterans, the researchers noted." Forbes notes: "Women had a higher risk for depression, but men had more than twice the risk for drug use problems, the researchers found. Since the start of the Iraq war, mental health problems increased more than fourfold among active-duty personnel and sevenfold for members of the National Guard or Reserve, [lead researcher Dr. Karen] Seal said. Age also played a role in the risk for PTSD, Seal said. While younger active-duty veterans had a higher risk for PTSD, 'among Guard and Reserve members, those over 40 were at significantly higher risk for PTSD than their colleagues under 25,' she said. Moreover, active-duty enlisted veterans in the Army rather than other service branches, or who had multiple tours of duty, thus more combat exposure, were at greater risk for PTSD, Seal said. This was not seen in National Guard and Reserve personnel, she noted" (7/16). Bloomberg reports on the study noting: "The high number of mental health disorders puts the U.S. at risk of 'an epidemic of chronic mental illness, as occurred with Vietnam veterans,' the study's authors wrote. A study published in 1990, Trauma and the Vietnam War Generation, found almost 1 million men, or about 31 percent of the soldiers who served in Vietnam, were diagnosed with post- traumatic stress disorder. More than one-fourth had symptoms of the illness up to 20 years after their active-duty service" (Olmos, 7/17). The Los Angeles Times reports: "The newest study correlates closely to a 2008 report by the Rand Corp., based on a much smaller sample of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. In that study, about 14% met the criteria for PTSD and 14% for depression" (Chong, 7/16).
Thursday, July 16, 2009
As our young men and women return home to higher education, their military training and experiences must be taken into consideration in the classrooms. VCSN, in partneship with Sacramento Valley's community colleges, has been participating in and assisting in organizing similar events since 2007. Particular focus will be on signature conditions of most recent wars: post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, military sexual trauma, and suicide prevention.
These day-long conferences have already proven to be successful in drawing educators from community college and universities, public and private, from California and Nevada together to learn about the special needs of veterans. Target audiences include educators, families, community advocates, and other students who contribute substantially to the re-entry experiences of our returning veterans.
There is also encouragment for colleges to form Veterans Clubs and students to join them. These often prove to be the most effective support group returning veterans can find due to their accessability and connectedness with other veterans in the club. If you, or anyone you know, is interested in joining our all-volunteer group or participating with us in this event, please contact VCSN volunteer President and Co-Chair of the event, Jan Wald at 916 622-7360 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you, we need community support from YOU!