2-7: PTSD Monthly Update

Go to:

www.ptsd.va.gov

Managing Stress Reactions after Trauma

People respond to traumatic events in a number of ways. They may feel concern, anger, fear, or helplessness. These are all typical responses to a traumatic event.

Research shows that people who have been through trauma, loss, or hardship in the past may be even more likely than others to be affected by new, potentially traumatic events.

Self-Care after a Traumatic Event

Learn what to expect following a traumatic event and how to manage stress reactions on our website:

Self-Help Options

Professional Help

www.ptsd.va.gov

 *****

I consult and consider many sources in search of appropriate subject matter for this blog. Often I find material that is best left (mostly) untouched by me, e.g., today’s piece from the Veterans Administration.

*****

The illustration at the blog’s top is the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. The blogger is a Vietnam Veteran, 1966-67. He is an author and past state chaplain for a major veterans organization. He welcomes comments on posts and encourages readers to subscribe to PTSDOutreach.com; two points: 1) it is free, 2) posts appear directly in your e-mail in-box.

 

 

1-18: Most Americans Continue to Struggle

[I consult and consider many sources in search of appropriate subject matter for this blog. Often I find material that is best left (mostly) untouched by me, e.g., today’s piece.]

Paul Buchheit has a book coming out in March. If you want to purchase Disposable Americans: Extreme Capitalism and the Case for a Guaranteed Income (Critical Interventions), however, you may also want to save up first—hardcover retails at $119, paperback goes for $37.95. The author blogged yesterday what might be considered a tantalizing preview with disturbing and discouraging statistics from the year that was.

“How American Life Continued to Deteriorate in 2016”

But, that cannot be, one might argue. We are the greatest nation on earth, after all, the greatest that ever was, for goodness’ sakes.

The reality of the disposable American has been building up in recent years, and new evidence keeps pouring in. Now the potential exists for greater suffering under the rule of a billionaire Cabinet that is far, far removed from average workers and renters and homeowners.

First the “Upside” — 5% of Us Are Millionaires

Small consolation.

Depending on the source, America has anywhere from 7 million to 13.5 million millionaires — about 5% of U.S. adults, and about a 40% increase in just six years. At the other end, 90% of us have gained NOTHING since 1997, and at least half of us NOTHING since 1980.

New Evidence of an Overall Collapse

Recent studies show America at or near the bottom among developed countries in disposable income, poverty, income and wealth inequality, safety net provisions, employment, economic mobility, life expectancy, infant mortality, and the well-being of children. We’ve run the table. The better part of America is equivalent to a third-world country.

Impossible!

Neglecting the Most Vulnerable among Us

We have fallen far as a nation when a half-million of our children under the age of four are taking anxiety drugs, and when the great majority of American families have to spend over 10% of their income just to send their four-year-olds to pre-school. And the “American Dream” for our kids? According to one careful study, they only have about half the chance that they had fifty years ago.

So much for my generation paving the way for a better place for our progeny.

Racist Gap-Widening

Today just 100 individuals own as much wealth as the entire Black population of America.

You might want to read that sentence again to have it sink in.

Even a middle-aged African-American with a graduate degree has only about the same odds of becoming a millionaire as a white person with a high school diploma. The common misperception is that Black youths turn to drugs at a disproportionate rate. Not true. According to the American Journal of Public Health, “drug-use disorders were most prevalent among non-Hispanic Whites, followed by Hispanics, then African Americans.” Yet “racial/ethnic minorities are disproportionately incarcerated, especially for drug crimes.”

Finding a Stable Job is Becoming Impossible for Much of America

We keep hearing about the drop in the unemployment rate. But with nearly two out of every five American adults not even in the labor force,  the unemployment rate is more like 30%. Partly explaining our employment frustration is a Princeton study which concluded that only 6% of the ten million new jobs created in the past decade were traditional full-time positions, while 94% of them were temporary or contract-based.

How do those workers obtain insurance?

Americans: Sick and Dying, and Killing Themselves

Harvard researcher Dr. Samuel Dickman said, “We spend more on medical care than in any other country, and those dollars are increasingly concentrated on the wealthy.” Less fortunate Americans are 15 pounds heavier than in the 1990s, dying from alcoholism at a record rate, and struggling with mental health problems for which treatment facilities have been continually cut, leaving many mentally ill people in jails rather than in psychiatric hospitals.

The Unkindest Cut of All:

Finally, most disturbingly, we’re living in an era of suicide in America, in parallel with our era of inequality. Suicide is at its highest level in 30 years. It’s especially high for veterans. War is traumatic and depressing, but so is a return to a deteriorating nation.

*****

The illustration at the blog’s top is the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. The blogger is a Vietnam Veteran, 1966-67. He is an author and past state chaplain for a major veterans organization. He welcomes comments on posts and encourages readers to subscribe to PTSDOutreach.com; two points: 1) it is free, 2) posts appear directly in your e-mail in-box.

1-10: Why did he have a gun?

[I consult and consider many sources in search of appropriate subject matter for this blog. Often I find material that is best left (mostly) untouched by me, e.g., today’s piece reported by Jay Weaver, Kyra Gurney, and Jim Wyss at the Miami Herald.]

[Wars Cause PTSD. Whether tomorrow, a decade from now, or 30 years down the line, the war experience today will torture a soldier’s mind. It is not necessary to argue, debate, or fight about our reason(s) for going to war; it is the act of war that attacks the psyche. End the wars, end the suffering.]

The Miami Herald’s first reporting on the horrific shooting at a Florida airport this weekend bore this headline:

Airport shooter had mental health problems but no apparent ties to terrorism

I guess this falls into the bad news-bad news category. Given what we know so far about the perpetrator of this horrendous shooting spree, incredulity surpasses knowledge. In the coming days we can expect one of two reactions from the National Rifle Association, utter silence or contorted circumlocution about the right to bear arms and their go-to gibberish about a slippery slope. The Herald story begins,

Esteban Santiago told the FBI in Alaska two months ago that he was hearing voices [1st mental health reference] urging him to join an Islamic terrorist group, but federal agents scouring the social media postings of the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport shooter have found no evidence linking his deadly rampage to terrorism.

Law enforcement sources said [1st law enforcement reference] that since the 26-year-old opened fire in the airport on Friday — killing five people and injuring six others — agents have discovered no information on Facebook and other online sites to suggest the Iraq war veteran [1st vet reference] was radicalized by the Islamic State or any other terrorist organization.

… a profile has emerged …

Instead, a profile has emerged of a mentally disturbed [2nd mental health reference] military veteran [2nd vet reference] who boarded a plane on a one-way Delta ticket from Anchorage via Minneapolis to Fort Lauderdale to take deadly aim at fellow travelers in a baggage claim area. Investigators have no idea why he chose Fort Lauderdale as his target….

But Broward Sheriff Scott Israel, who is working with the FBI on the airport shooting, [2nd law enforcement reference] pointed to mental health problems [3rd mental health reference] rather than to any terrorist connection in evaluating what set off Santiago.

I fully understand concerns of terrorism when public acts of violence rip apart our senses of decency and liberty. But I do not understand how a person with so much overt psychological and criminal baggage escapes into our midst to be discovered only after the slaughter of innocence. Yes, “a profile has emerged”; it was ignored; it emerged; it festered. It exploded.

“Something has to change,” Israel said Sunday on Channel 10 News’ This Week in South Florida. “People who are suffering from mental illness [4th mental health reference] should not be allowed, in my opinion, to purchase or have firearms at any time.” [3rd law enforcement reference] …

In the airport shooting, Santiago used a handgun that he retrieved from Anchorage police last month. Officers confiscated it in November [4th law enforcement reference] while he underwent a psychiatric evaluation [5th mental health reference]. The FBI had referred Santiago to Anchorage authorities [5th law enforcement reference] after he told them he was being pressured by the CIA to join the Islamic State militant organization and watch training videos.

Santiago was taken to Providence Alaska Medical Center for a psychiatric evaluation [6th mental health reference], then transferred to the state-operated Alaska Psychiatric Institute. He was treated for a few days but received no follow-up therapy or medication, according to a family member.

… but they gave him back his gun!

Despite the alarming nature of his statements to the FBI, Santiago was not placed on any law enforcement watch lists or on the federal “no-fly” list [6th law enforcement reference].

Santiago’s semi-automatic firearm, a Walther 9mm — along with two magazines — was his only piece of checked luggage on the flight. After claiming it, he loaded the handgun in the bathroom of the baggage claim area, exited and opened fire….

Much of the investigation into Santiago [7th law enforcement reference] has centered on Anchorage, where he lived …

FBI and local investigators [8th law enforcement reference] flooded the residential community to search for evidence and question neighbors, who have been rocked by the news. Marlin Ritzman, the Anchorage FBI special agent in charge, said agents searched Santiago’s home and another Anchorage location: the Qupqugiaq Inn, a long-term rental accommodation where Santiago apparently recently stayed.

After a domestic disturbance last year in which Peterson told police he tried to strangle her [9th law enforcement reference], Santiago was forbidden from being in contact with her, according to a domestic violence complaint. Although Santiago violated that court order by living with her again, the case was dismissed [10th law enforcement reference] as long as he stayed out of trouble, according to the New York Times. Anchorage police responded to more domestic calls, but officers did not arrest him [11th law enforcement reference].

Do not Speculate.

The final two paragraphs of this piece summarize Esteban Santiago’s military service. I fear that the casual reader will infer from “was an Iraq War vet” that he has PTSD, which therefore explains everything. We simply have no way of knowing that. What troubles me is that he served from 2007 to 2016 and mustered out at the rank of PFC. Had he been promoted and then busted? Or, why did the military keep him so long if they did not deem him promotable?

Santiago, a former Army private first class, was an Iraq War vet who also served in Puerto Rico and Alaska between December 2007 and August 2016, according to Air Force Lt. Col. Candis Olmstead of the Alaska National Guard [3rd vet reference].

Santiago served in Alaska for less than two years [4th vet reference], starting Nov. 21, 2014, and received a “general discharge” from the Alaska Guard on Aug. 16, 2016, “for unsatisfactory performance.” Olmstead did not elaborate….

Rest in Peace

Shirley Timmons, Terry Andres, Olga Woltering, Michael Oehme, (fifth Victim’s name unknown as of this writing)

*****

The illustration at the blog’s top is the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. The blogger is a Vietnam Veteran, 1966-67. He is an author and past state chaplain for a major veterans organization. He welcomes comments on posts and encourages readers to subscribe to PTSDOutreach.com; two points: 1) it is free, 2) posts appear directly in your e-mail in-box.

1-6: Spoils of War

[I consult and consider many sources in search of appropriate subject matter for this blog. Often I find material that is best left (mostly) untouched by me.]

[Wars Cause PTSD. Whether tomorrow, a decade from now, or 30 years down the line, the war experience today will torture a soldier’s mind. It is not necessary to argue, debate, or fight about our reason(s) for going to war; it is the act of war that attacks the psyche. End the wars, end the suffering.]

Cathy Breen, Co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence asks:

What will Baghdad face in 2017?

This bold-faced question gave me pause because it reminded me of ill-formed questions that began to form somewhere in the back of my brain upon my departure from Vietnam. First, Ms. Breen’s story.

Iraq in Rubbles

… [One Monday in December] a woman journalist, Afrah Shawqu al Qaisi, was kidnapped from her home in the Saidiya district of Baghdad by men claiming to be security personnel. She had written an article expressing anger that armed groups could act with impunity (BBC News Dec. 27, 2016).

“How do you get up in the morning?” I gently asked a young woman from Baghdad. “How do you manage?”

Despair

“With no hope” she replied.  “Each morning I get up with no hope.”  Her mother is ill and worries each day that her daughter will not get home safely from work. “All Iraqis want hope,” she added, “but they are resigned to bad conditions.”…

[Breen and a friend] one day went to the site of the horrific suicide bombing of July 3, 2016, only two blocks away from the family’s apartment … The night of the bombings was on the eve of Eid, ending the fasting month of Ramadan. Many people were out doing the final shopping for this celebration. Vendors with their wares on the sidewalks, children eating ice cream in the blistering heat of summer. It was about 10:00 p.m. The blasts took the lives of over 300 people, many of them children. Over 200 more wounded….

A Question of Morality

While in Baghdad I (Breen) stayed with a gracious couple who made the pilgrimage to Mecca, the Haj, this past year. In one of our many conversations, my host asked somewhat mischievously, “Which of the four do you think is the greatest sin in Islam?  Theft, illicit sex, drinking or lying?” I mulled this over not really knowing, but enjoying the exercise. The answer turned out to be “lying” and, curiously, I got it right.

But then the 2003 U.S. led invasion of Iraq was based on lies and deceit….

Which brings my mind back to Vietnam, another war based on lies and deceit.

In-Country Conundrums

When my outfit patrolled black zones for days on end on search and destroy missions, we operated under a standing order that any Vietnamese person encountered was suspected to be the enemy or, at least, an enemy sympathizer. Black zones were also known as free fire zones, meaning that we had full authorization to shoot on sight anyone not wearing a GI uniform. The lame excuse for this carte blanche given to us grunts from somewhere up the chain was that “they were warned we were coming” (and instructed to leave).

Where they were supposed to go I could never figure. How they were supposed to get to wherever they were supposed to go I never figured either. What about what few belongings they had? What about the water buffalo?

Back-Home Blues

It was literally years after I returned to the states that I heard the term “survivor’s guilt.” I had it but didn’t know it. First, I was plagued with flashbacks of buddies falling close by, while bullets and shrapnel miraculously missed me. Why them? Why not me?

Then came thoughts of what we had done (what I had participated in). We bombed their rice paddies, we decimated their jungle with napalm and Agent Orange, and we forced them to flee their homes. To this day I still ask, where were they to go? Where did they go?

I am conflicted about the deployment of American fighters around the world today. But I never bought the lies and deceit that catapulted us into Iraq. Cathy Breen’s slice of life vignette should sound alarum bells for our country. I know it won’t, just as I know that in years to come Veterans will ask themselves: Why them and not me? Where did they go?

The website for Voices for Creative Nonviolence is

www.vcnv.org

*****

The illustration at the blog’s top is the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. The blogger is a Vietnam Veteran, 1966-67. He is an author and past state chaplain for a major veterans organization. He welcomes comments on posts and encourages readers to subscribe to PTSDOutreach.com; two points: 1) it is free, 2) posts appear directly in your e-mail in-box.

1-3: Lady Gaga Has PTSD

This piece is based on reporting from back in December.

Lady Gaga Reveals She Has PTSD

Lady Gaga revealed in a “Today” segment … that she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, almost exactly two years after she opened up about being raped at the age of 19.

“I suffer from a mental illness — I suffer from PTSD. I’ve never told anyone that before …”

“But the kindness that’s been shown to me by doctors — as well as my family and my friends — it’s really saved my life.” she added. “I’ve been searching for ways to heal myself, and I’ve found that kindness is the best way.”

While I certainly think Lady Gaga’s public admission of the trauma she has experienced is courageous, I have to take issue with the last quoted sentence.

Reliance on self-healing (“to heal myself”), I believe, is a recipe for disaster, a train wreck waiting to happen—pick your own cliché. I lack the qualifications to set a broken bone or remove my appendix. Likewise, my PTSD requires informed diagnosis and professional treatment. It took many years for me to realize that. As for the application of kindness, well, I guess there is nothing wrong with that, either giving or receiving.

Not to quibble. Thank you, Ms. Gaga, for reminding us that we really don’t know what other people have gone through in their lives, even celebrities. Even our neighbors. Even the homeless. Especially the homeless.

*****

The illustration at the blog’s top corner is the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. The blogger is a Vietnam Veteran, 1966-67. He is an author and past state chaplain for a major veterans organization. He welcomes comments on posts and encourages readers to subscribe to PTSDOutreach.com; two points: 1) it is free, 2) posts appear directly in your e-mail in-box.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*****

The illustration at the blog’s top is the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. The blogger is a Vietnam Veteran, 1966-67. He is an author and past state chaplain for a major veterans organization. He welcomes comments on posts and encourages readers to subscribe to PTSDOutreach.com; two points: 1) it is free, 2) posts appear directly in your e-mail in-box.

12/23-1/2: Holiday Help

[I consult and consider many sources in search of appropriate subject matter for this blog. Often I find material that is best left (mostly) untouched by me, e.g., today’s piece from The Veterans Administration site Myhealthevet. I will run this article, as is, through the new year.]

In the Spotlight

Looking for Help When the Holidays Aren’t Merry?

Holidays are not always the “merry and bright” events we often expect. For many people, including many Veterans, they can be downright depressing. The holiday season can trigger feelings of mourning, loss or loneliness. For some, episodes of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can surface. For newly returning Veterans, the struggle to readjust to civilian life, find employment and establish social relationships can worsen at holiday time.

Dr. Ken Weingardt, a psychologist now at Northwestern University and previously with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), puts it simply. “The holidays promote this myth that everyone is having a warm, happy time basking in the love of family and friends. For Veterans who don’t have this or are feeling off balance, this contrast creates a huge disconnect that can make them feel worse.”

Because they are feeling pressured, Veterans may want to isolate themselves from friends and family. Avoiding emotions about past stressful events can lead to avoiding all emotions. Crowds can make a Veteran feel nervous and on edge, like they have to be on guard. Even when it is hard, being around others for support can improve things. Good help is available if these feelings continue.

Help is Available

“VA offers a full range of mental health services. Drop-in clinics, peer support programs, residential programs and medications are just a few,” Weingardt says. Veterans who are dealing with depression, anxiety, PTSD, or other mental health issues have many options for connecting and getting help.

Not sure you need help? Prefer to go it alone?

If you’re not sure you need help, or just want to work through things on your own, VA also has resources to help you through the holidays and anytime.

Brief, anonymous, screening tests available on My HealtheVet can help determine whether you may have PTSD, Depression, or a substance use problem.

Afterdeployment.org is a set of self-help resources for the military and Veteran communities from the Department of Defense. It includes modules on such topics as Depression, Life Stress, Families and relationships.

If you are in crisis and need help now, VA stands ready to help. Visit www.veteranscrisisline.net. You can connect with a licensed VA counselor by phone, instant message, or text messages, 24/7.

For mental health care, you can contact people who have years of experience in working with Veterans at your nearest VA Medical Center or community based outreach clinic. “The VA is required to help Veterans who reach out, and their mission is to make it easy for Veterans to find the services that are best for them.” Weingardt says, “the VA Medical Center staff will work with you to decide what kind of help will work best.”

These program locators can help you find the nearest VA facility, PTSD program, or Addiction Treatment program:

Good treatments are now available that can help. For more information see the Guide to VA Mental Health Services for Veterans & Families. (PDF)

If you are a combat Veteran, you can also get confidential help through the Vet Centers. http://www.vetcenter.va.gov/ Vet Centers are small, community based counseling centers staffed by combat Veterans who have “been there, done that” and want to help you make a successful transition from military to civilian life.

  • Call the 24/7 Veteran Combat Call Center 1-877-927-8387 (WAR-VETS) to talk to another combat Veteran.
  • Locate the nearest Vet Center

Make the Connection is a new website that helps connect Veterans and their friends and family members with information, resources, and solutions to issues affecting their health, well-being, and everyday lives. Hear inspiring stories of strength. Learn what has worked for other Veterans.

PTSD Coach Mobile App: If you have, or think you might have PTSD, this app is for you. The PTSD Coach mobile app (for iPhone and Android) can help you learn about and manage symptoms that commonly occur after trauma. Features include:

  • Reliable information on PTSD and treatments that work.
  • Tools for screening and tracking your symptoms.
  • Convenient, easy-to-use skills to help you handle stress symptoms.
  • Direct links to support and help.
  • Always with you when you need it.

Please note: Depression, Anxiety and PTSD are serious medical conditions that often require professional evaluation and treatment. These self-help resources are not intended to replace needed professional care. Remember, you don’t have to go it alone: VA stands ready to help.

*****

The illustration at the blog’s top corner is the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. The blogger is a Vietnam Veteran, 1966-67. He is an author and past state chaplain for a major veterans organization. He welcomes comments on posts and encourages readers to subscribe to PTSDOutreach.com; two points: 1) it is free, 2) posts appear directly in your e-mail in-box.

12-22: There for Each Other

[I consult and consider many sources in search of appropriate subject matter for this blog. Often I find material that is best left (mostly) untouched by me, e.g., today’s piece from The Veterans Administration site Myhealthevet. I will run this article, as is, through the new year.]

In the Spotlight

Looking for Help When the Holidays Aren’t Merry?

Holidays are not always the “merry and bright” events we often expect. For many people, including many Veterans, they can be downright depressing. The holiday season can trigger feelings of mourning, loss or loneliness. For some, episodes of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can surface. For newly returning Veterans, the struggle to readjust to civilian life, find employment and establish social relationships can worsen at holiday time.

Dr. Ken Weingardt, a psychologist now at Northwestern University and previously with the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), puts it simply. “The holidays promote this myth that everyone is having a warm, happy time basking in the love of family and friends. For Veterans who don’t have this or are feeling off balance, this contrast creates a huge disconnect that can make them feel worse.”

Because they are feeling pressured, Veterans may want to isolate themselves from friends and family. Avoiding emotions about past stressful events can lead to avoiding all emotions. Crowds can make a Veteran feel nervous and on edge, like they have to be on guard. Even when it is hard, being around others for support can improve things. Good help is available if these feelings continue.

Help is Available

“VA offers a full range of mental health services. Drop-in clinics, peer support programs, residential programs and medications are just a few,” Weingardt says. Veterans who are dealing with depression, anxiety, PTSD, or other mental health issues have many options for connecting and getting help.

Not sure you need help? Prefer to go it alone?

If you’re not sure you need help, or just want to work through things on your own, VA also has resources to help you through the holidays and anytime.

Brief, anonymous, screening tests available on My HealtheVet can help determine whether you may have PTSD, Depression, or a substance use problem.

Afterdeployment.org is a set of self-help resources for the military and Veteran communities from the Department of Defense. It includes modules on such topics as Depression, Life Stress, Families and relationships.

If you are in crisis and need help now, VA stands ready to help. Visit www.veteranscrisisline.net. You can connect with a licensed VA counselor by phone, instant message, or text messages, 24/7.

For mental health care, you can contact people who have years of experience in working with Veterans at your nearest VA Medical Center or community based outreach clinic. “The VA is required to help Veterans who reach out, and their mission is to make it easy for Veterans to find the services that are best for them.” Weingardt says, “the VA Medical Center staff will work with you to decide what kind of help will work best.”

These program locators can help you find the nearest VA facility, PTSD program, or Addiction Treatment program:

Good treatments are now available that can help. For more information see the Guide to VA Mental Health Services for Veterans & Families. (PDF)

If you are a combat Veteran, you can also get confidential help through the Vet Centers. http://www.vetcenter.va.gov/ Vet Centers are small, community based counseling centers staffed by combat Veterans who have “been there, done that” and want to help you make a successful transition from military to civilian life.

  • Call the 24/7 Veteran Combat Call Center 1-877-927-8387 (WAR-VETS) to talk to another combat Veteran.
  • Locate the nearest Vet Center

Make the Connection is a new website that helps connect Veterans and their friends and family members with information, resources, and solutions to issues affecting their health, well-being, and everyday lives. Hear inspiring stories of strength. Learn what has worked for other Veterans.

PTSD Coach Mobile App: If you have, or think you might have PTSD, this app is for you. The PTSD Coach mobile app (for iPhone and Android) can help you learn about and manage symptoms that commonly occur after trauma. Features include:

  • Reliable information on PTSD and treatments that work.
  • Tools for screening and tracking your symptoms.
  • Convenient, easy-to-use skills to help you handle stress symptoms.
  • Direct links to support and help.
  • Always with you when you need it.

Please note: Depression, Anxiety and PTSD are serious medical conditions that often require professional evaluation and treatment. These self-help resources are not intended to replace needed professional care. Remember, you don’t have to go it alone: VA stands ready to help.

*****

The illustration at the blog’s top corner is the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. The blogger is a Vietnam Veteran, 1966-67. He is an author and past state chaplain for a major veterans organization. He welcomes comments on posts and encourages readers to subscribe to PTSDOutreach.com; two points: 1) it is free, 2) posts appear directly in your e-mail in-box.

12-14: American Vets Speak Out in Japan

[I consult and consider many sources in search of appropriate subject matter for this blog. Often I find material that is best left (mostly) untouched by me, e.g., today’s piece with excerpts from an article which first appeared in Jacobin by Rory Fanning, author of Worth Fighting for: An Army Ranger’s Journey out of the Military and across America.]

[Wars Cause PTSD. Whether tomorrow, a decade from now, or 30 years down the line, the war experience today will torture a soldier’s mind. It is not necessary to argue, debate, or fight about our reason(s) for going to war; it is the act of war that attacks the psyche. End the wars, end the suffering.]

Not all combat veterans, thankfully, develop PTSD. But I feel it safe to say that those who do also develop an aversion to war. What follows is the tale of two combat veterans who carried their anti-war sentiments all the way to Japan.

Veterans on an Antiwar Mission to Japan

Rory Fanning … went on a speaking tour with … Michael Hanes, a former Marine Force Recon … staff sergeant who was part of the initial 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. The article first appeared in Jacobin.

(As reported in Jacobin,) a vibrant antiwar movement is blooming in Japan right now. Trade unions, civic groups and an overwhelming number of young people are galvanizing the country around Article 9 of the Japanese constitution–the article that has kept Japan out of war for the last 70 years.

Article 9 keeps Japan out of war, but it also allows for over 100 active U.S. military bases within the country. One must wonder which country benefits more from the American omnipresence in Japan … and at what perpetual cost befalls American taxpayers.

Each weekend since March, between 5,000 and 10,000 people have gathered outside of the Diet (Japan’s parliament) in Tokyo to protest Shinzō Abe, Japan’s prime minister and the hawkish members of his Liberal Democratic Party who are trying to repeal Article 9. Abe … is a fierce defender of U.S. military bases inside of Japan and is making significant legislative gains towards ridding Japan of the article, which ensures Japan only takes up arms against another country when it is being directly attacked….

Michael Hanes and I (Fanning) … recently toured the country on a trip sponsored by Veterans for Peace and a group within the Japanese American Bar Association (JABA) dedicated to protecting Article 9….

We aimed to express solidarity with those opposing the 50,000 U.S. troops stationed in the 122 U.S. military sites inside of Japan and to help this emerging antiwar movement expose the many dangers and lies that accompany militarization.

… Echoes of David Swanson’s War Is a Lie. Vietnam was a lie, Iraq was a lie … and on and on.

[A key part of Fannin’s message:] “Every one of the million or so deaths–the vast majority being innocent civilians—resulting from U.S. military interventions around the world since 9/11 has been carried out in the name of ‘self-defense.’ Please don’t let your government sell you that same false argument to repeal Article 9” …

Japan Violates Its Own Law

Under Article 9, in order for Japan to justify sending the SDF into a country, a ceasefire agreement must be in place within the country; the SDF must have consent from the government in the conflict zone; the SDF mission must be conducting a nonpartisan operation; Tokyo must have the freedom to pull the plug if any conditions are not met; and finally the SDF must limit use of force.

None of these conditions are being met in South Sudan, making Japan’s military presence in the country a clear violation of Japanese law….

As we have seen in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan and all the other countries the United States has invaded since 9/11, however, military intervention only makes a country less stable and more violent.…

Japanese Constitution an American-Authored Document

In early 1946, General Douglas MacArthur and his staff wrote the Japanese constitution and sought, in part, to ensure Japan never posed a military threat to the United States and the world again. Despite being written by a conquering general, 70 years on, large numbers of Japanese cherish this element of the existing constitution.

There was no oil!

Oh that our own Constitution would make it more difficult to conduct war, or that the citizenry would express greater outrage when we do. The bromide “Congress declares war” is also a lie. We allow our military to deploy worldwide and allow politicians to claim they do so in defense of democracy.

“The world is less safe.”

… We talked about our own military experience, the devastating effects our actions had on the people of Afghanistan and Iraq, why the world is less safe as a result of U.S. military intervention around the world … We talked about how education, health care, infrastructure, and the environment all suffer as a result of militarization; we discussed how our leaders often overstate the threats to security to justify bloated military budgets and steal other countries’ resources through interventions….

In Japan, Mike and I saw a glimpse of what is possible when a country is able to resist its leaders’ demands for war and channel its resources to human development and flourishing. We saw the power of civilian diplomacy. We learned that ordinary Japanese have much more in common with ordinary Americans than we do with our respective leaders who send us off to kill each other in war….

Noble, If Not “Notable”

Mike and I have no notable profile; we are simply former American soldiers who went to Japan to support peace, not war. In a country that has embraced peace for 70 years but now fears war, this was national news….

*****

The illustration at the blog’s top corner is the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. The blogger is a Vietnam Veteran, 1966-67. He is an author and past state chaplain for a major veterans organization. He welcomes comments on posts and encourages readers to subscribe to PTSDOutreach.com; two points: 1) it is free, 2) posts appear directly in your e-mail in-box.

 

 

12-13: Coping through the Holidays

[I consult and consider many sources in search of appropriate subject matter for this blog. Often I find material that is best left (mostly) untouched by me, e.g., today’s piece from the National Center for PTSD.]

Holidays and PTSD

The holiday season is often difficult for people with PTSD, but there are healthy ways to cope and manage stress.

Here are some tips from our clinicians that can help you manage your PTSD symptoms over this holiday season:

  • Don’t overschedule. Leave time for yourself.
  • Make a plan to get things done. Set small, doable goals.
  • When stressed, remind yourself of what has helped in the past.
  • Use the tools from PTSD Coach app or PTSD Coach Online to help you manage stress
  • Reach out for support if you need it. Know you can rely on for help. If your symptoms are getting worse or you feel down, reach out to your provider or
  • Call the Crisis Line.

If you know someone with PTSD, there are things you can do to make sure the holiday season is pleasant and enjoyable for everyone.

  • Educate yourself: Download and read Understand PTSD and PTSD Treatment (PDF), to learn more about how PTSD affects your loved one.
  • Talk to your family member about what they need to feel comfortable during the holidays. If your loved one needs services, call Coaching into Care for advice in talking to them about treatment.
  • Keep important resources at hand, such as the Veterans Crisis Line, a confidential toll-free hotline, online chat, or text. Veterans and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online, or send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

Crisis Line:

1-800-273-8255 and Press 1

Be sure to forward this update to others so they can subscribe. We send one update per month to keep you informed of the latest PTSD developments.

Thank you,

The Staff of VA’s National Center for PTSD

*****

The illustration at the blog’s top corner is the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. The blogger is a Vietnam Veteran, 1966-67. He is an author and past state chaplain for a major veterans organization. He welcomes comments on posts and encourages readers to subscribe to PTSDOutreach.com; two points: 1) it is free, 2) posts appear directly in your e-mail in-box.

12-12: In Their Own Words

[I consult and consider many sources in search of appropriate subject matter for this blog. Often I find material that is best left (mostly) untouched by me, e.g., today’s piece which I actually read on Veterans Day. It appeared on the website Healthy Living. The article “What Veterans Want You to Know about PTSD” was written by Carolyn Gregoire.]

Although I ran across this piece at a political source I visit often, I have edited out political portions, choosing rather to stick mainly to PTSD itself … with one exception. I transcribed the first paragraph in its entirety because it contains Ms. Gregoire’s stated purpose for writing the piece.

Deconstructing Myths and Stereotypes

For many, this Veterans Day comes with a little extra heaviness. Just days ago, our country elected a new president who has insulted decorated war veterans and suggested that post-traumatic stress disorder is a sign of weakness.

Unfortunately, PTSD myths and stereotypes like this are all too common. An estimated 8 million Americans― and up to 31 percent of Vietnam War veterans and 20 percent of Iraq veterans―suffer from PTSD …

But still, the disorder is poorly understood, stigmatized and often misrepresented, and the negative connotations surrounding PTSD are a major part of what keeps many veterans from seeking help …

… (H)ere are five things vets wish others knew about PTSD.

Most people have no idea what veterans have been through.

Anyone who refers to veterans with PTSD as “weak” has no idea what those people have seen and experienced in a war zone, or the toll that these experiences can take on an individual―no matter how “strong” they are.

Said one combat veteran:

“…Until you kill other human beings for survival, what could you possibly say about it?” He continued, “It assaults all your senses, the smell of death and the machines that cause it…. It is incomprehensible.”

The blog PTSD: A Soldier’s Perspective aims to share stories from and inspiration for veterans struggling with after-effects of their service.

“There is disconnection between everything human and what has to be done in combat,” a vet named Scott Lee wrote on the platform …

PTSD isn’t always easy to recognize.

Symptoms of the disorder often go masked and unnoticed. War journalist Sebastian Junger, who spent months embedded with American troops in Afghanistan, wrote a Vanity Fair essay about the experience last June. In it, he highlighted his own struggle to recognize PTSD.

“I had no idea that what I’d just experienced had anything to do with combat; I just thought I was going crazy,” he wrote. “For the next several months I kept having panic attacks whenever I was in a small place with too many people — airplanes, ski gondolas, crowded bars. Gradually the incidents stopped, and I didn’t think about them again until I found myself talking to a woman at a picnic who worked as a psychotherapist. She asked whether I’d been affected by my war experiences, and I said no, I didn’t think so. But for some reason I described my puzzling panic attack in the subway. ‘That’s called post-traumatic stress disorder,’ she said.”

Much of the suffering of PTSD is silent. 

PTSD survivors often suffer in silence, trying to present a strong face to the world and not seeking help for fear of being seen as weak. A veteran who served in Baghdad … opened up about the struggle to admit to himself that he needed care.

“The few nights a week I’d get drunk and start crying inconsolably, although often silently, I tried to shake off as simple moments of weakness,” he wrote ... “I should be tough …”

“Some of the toughest guys I had ended up the worst off” he added….

PTSD doesn’t make you violent. 

A harmful stereotype about PTSD is that it leads to aggressive behavior. But research indicates that the prevalence of violence among individuals with PTSD is only slightly higher than the general population, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

… It pains me when I listen to the news and every time a veteran commits a crime (or commits suicide) it is automatically linked to and blamed on PTSD….

Recovery is possible.

One of the most damaging stereotypes about PTSD is the idea that people with the disorder are somehow broken or can’t heal.

Roy Webb, a Marine who served in Vietnam and suffered from PTSD and insomnia for four decades, told CBS News about his recovery through yoga and meditation.

“I did feel at total peace, like I hadn’t known in years. You don’t have all those thoughts flying through your mind at night,” he said.

Iraq veteran Gordon Ewell, who has overcome PTSD, sent a message of hope to his fellow veterans: Recovery is always possible, and you’re never alone.

“You may not be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel yet, but I promise it is there,” he said in an interview published in Denning’s book. “I promise you can get through anything. I also promise that there are people willing to walk with you every step of the way.”

*****

The illustration at the blog’s top is the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. The blogger is a Vietnam Veteran, 1966-67. He is an author and past state chaplain for a major veterans organization. He welcomes comments on posts and encourages readers to subscribe to PTSDOutreach.com; three points: 1) it is free, 2) posts appear directly in your e-mail in-box, and 3) your name and address will never be shared.