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Programs at VA Palo Alto helping treat PTSD

Original post made on May 4, 2012

Though post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is most often thought to be associated with military veterans, anyone can develop the disorder after experiencing a trauma in which the person has witnessed a horrible event, feared for his or her life, or felt extreme helplessness. ==B Related stories:==
• [Web Link What is PTSD?]
• [Web Link Mobile apps help PTSD sufferers]

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, May 4, 2012, 8:42 AM

Comments (5)

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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on May 4, 2012 at 9:18 am

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

These efforts by the Menlo Park VA are, in true Silicon Valley tradition, innovative and inspiring. Anyone who wants to support these exciting efforts can contribute to the Menlo Park VA Veterans' Support Fund at the Philanthropic Ventures Foundation, 1222 Preservation Park Way, Oakland CA 94612-1201

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Posted by Toby
a resident of Midtown
on May 4, 2012 at 12:52 pm

Is it really PTSD or electrosensitivity?

Web Link

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Posted by Peter Carpenter
a resident of Atherton
on May 4, 2012 at 3:35 pm

Peter Carpenter is a registered user.

"PTSD or electrosensitivity"
From the veterans standpoint it makes no difference what the cause was, the fact is that, in their service to our country, they have been seriously harmed and we, a grateful nation, are obligated to care for them.

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Posted by Los Agreement
a resident of Atherton
on May 4, 2012 at 5:02 pm

Geez, I hate it when I actually wholeheartedly agree with Peter on something....

PTSd, along with the signature injury of the Iraq war, traumatic brain injury, are devastating and we owe it to our vets to give them the best available care. Echo the props to the local VA and the VA in general for their innovative care.

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Posted by Former-Soldier
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 6, 2012 at 8:37 am

> Symptoms of PTSD -- such as anxiety, feeling "on edge,"
> feeling numb or avoidance behaviors -- disrupt life and
> make it hard to continue with daily activities, the
> National Center for PTSD reports.

It is sometimes difficult to understand just how big a problem this “disorder” (PTSD) , or how “disruptive” it might be to former members of the military who are now making their way in the civilian world. The injuries that soldiers sustained during WWI and WWII were often not treated very effectively by the medical people, resulting in higher death rates, and higher numbers of significant injuries that resulted in amputations, which were life-changing for those who sustained such injuries. Post-service psychological problems did not seem to get much attention in the media of the time. For WWI veterans—other issues, like being denied their “bonus” by a duplicitous Congress was far more compelling that what people might have called “shell shock” at the time.

Most of the men who served during WWII returned to civilian life, found productive jobs, and created a prosperous America for their families. Most did not dwell on the war, and it was often hard to get them to talk about their experiences—at least until much later in their lives. Of course, the number of US soldiers in combat was not very large, compared to the number actually in service (16M men/women under arms during WWII).

To the extent that the soldiers of that war suffered from PTSD is not known, since it did not seem to be identified as a post-service problem. No doubt there are any number of cases of men who took to drinking, or failed to transition successfully into society during that time frame. But by-and-large, they seemed to go to war, and return, successfully.

So it’s a little difficult to fully appreciate just how “real” PTSD might be, or how to actually “cure” it. The military has never been all that good about “transitioning” people from active service to civilian life. One day you are in the military, and the next day, you’re on a bus, or train, on the way home—a civilian. There is generally a period of overlap for medical care, via the Veteran’s Administration Hospitals, but this care has historically been intended to deal with actual medical problems that might not have been detected prior to ETS (End Term of Service). Psychological problems are always harder to deal with—particularly if the symptom is “feeling edgy”.

Even if you were not in combat, returning to civilian life can be difficult. The language people use in the military is different than the language people use in civilian life. The humor is different. Basic values are different. The military is about survival of “our side”, and the destruction of “their side”. Even in peace time, people get hurt in the military very frequently, because the activities of the military are inherently dangerous. It’s very difficult to explain what you did when you were in service, very often. Many times, your activities were classified, and you don’t have the freedom to related your story to your new peers. And far too often, people in civilian life just don’t care. All in all, the returning GI can feel more isolated, than not. This feeling generally passes, within a few months, but it can be a little “destabilizing” for the first few weeks after exiting the military.

The claim that upwards of 20% of Americans will develop PTSD seems specious, and hard to prove. One can only wonder how much PTSD there is in the countries where we have been involved—German, Russian, Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Cambodia, and China. If we Americans suffer PTSD at the 20% level, these other countries must be at the 100% level.

Here’s hoping that the VA is able to help these people. However, it is difficult to understand from the media reports just how large a problem PTSD is, and what, if anything, the military should be doing to better condition soldiers before their being deployed to active combat zones.

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