Veterans with PTSD – Insights by Dr. Henry Grayson

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Dr. Henry Grayson, one of SFTT’s distinguished members of its medical task force always points that there are no two identical cases of Post Traumatic Stress.   In effect, each individual brings a set of prior conscious and unconscious experiences – dare I call it “baggage” – that is often triggered in totally unpredictable ways during periods of great stress.  Many veterans have suffered traumatic events in combat and this battlefield stress is almost impossible to overcome when these brave warriors return home.

Dr. Grayson touches on many aspects of this in this lengthy but informative video which discusses his book “Use Your Body to Heal Your Mind.” Dr. Henry Grayson is a scientific and spiritual psychologist who founded and directed the National Institute for the Psychotherapies in New York City. He is the author of Mindful Loving, The New Physics of Love, as well as co-author of three professional books. Dr. Grayson integrates diverse psychotherapies with neuroscience, quantum physics, subtle energies with Eastern and Western spiritual mindfulness. He practices in New York City and Connecticut. SFTT is indeed fortunate to count on Dr. Grayson in our efforts to support our brave Veterans.

Retired Veterans Seek Help

While many focus on Post-traumatic stress disorder for Veterans returning from our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  Sadly, many traumatized Veterans from Vietnam were largely ignored and many still suffer from the invisible wounds of that war.  Found below is an excerpt from an article which describes how these Veterans cope with these recurring “nightmares.”

This is a common story among older combat veterans, who have contended with both the stigma of appearing weak and the lack of knowledge about the mental effects of combat. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) — characterized by hyper-vigilance, intrusive thoughts, nightmares and avoidance — wasn’t a formal diagnosis until 1980, and effective treatments weren’t widely available until the 1990s.

“They came home, stayed quiet and tried to muddle on as best they could,” says Steven Thorp, a San Diego psychologist with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. “They worked really hard as a distraction, 70, 80 hours a week, so PTSD didn’t really hit them full force until they retired, or the kids left the house, or they’re reminded of loss through the deaths of their friends.”

Dillard didn’t know how to right himself, but he knew exactly what had changed him: one long, terrible night in the jungles north of Saigon during his first tour, when Delta Company, his unit from the 101st Airborne Division, was nearly overrun by hundreds of North Vietnamese soldiers. That night he witnessed heroics by his captain, Paul Bucha, and waited with Delta Company buddies like Calvin Heath and Bill Heaney for a dawn they feared would never come.

“That night marked all of us,” says Dillard, 66, who now lives on a ranch in Livingston, Texas, and assists other veterans with their disability claims. “It’s been the source of lots of nightmares.” via: PTSD, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder – Retired Veterans Seek Help – AARP

Military Suicides and PTSD

Our military leadership is rightly concerned about the rate of suicide among military veterans.  SFTT has been reported on this growing problem for some time, but little substantive change has occurred over the last several years.  Sure, the government has announced many measures to deal with the problem such as the “Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention Act for American Veterans,” but suicide rates continue to be high.  Found below are some of the recent government initiatives, but the even more compelling arguments why these token actions are not enough to stem this epidemic problem.

Suicides by active-duty troops and veterans are at levels that would have been unthinkable a generation ago. Each day, on average, a current service member dies by suicide, and each hour a veteran does the same.

In response, President Obama signed the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act in February. The act aims to make information on suicide prevention more easily available to veterans; it offers financial incentives to mental health professionals who work with vets; and it requires an annual evaluation of the military’s mental health programs by an independent source.

The law is commendable, but it won’t come close to ending military suicides. That would require radical changes in the policies, procedures, attitudes and culture in two of our biggest bureaucracies: the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs.

Fifteen years ago, the suicide rate among patients in a large HMO in Detroit was seven times the national average. Its leaders decided to try to end suicides — not just reduce them but end them. In four years, the incidence of suicide at the HMO was reduced 75%; with more tinkering, the rate went down to zero, and has stayed there, at last count, for 2 1/2 years. The difference was an all-out commitment to the cause.

The HMO also implemented measures to provide timely care by enabling patients to get immediate help through email with physicians, to make same-day medical appointments and to get prescriptions filled the same day too.

A similar commitment by the military could achieve dramatic results, at least among active-duty troops. These troops are in the system now, their activities are being monitored regularly, so there are plenty of opportunities for assessment and treatment.

Then there is the matter of stigma. It’s not the military’s responsibility alone to destigmatize psychological problems, but there are steps the military can take.  Service members with PTSD who are able to manage it should be strongly considered for promotions just as though they had recovered from physical wounds. Their ability to overcome mental injury should be recognized, so it inspires others.

To keep its troops mentally healthy, the Defense Department must reduce the number and duration of combat deployments and do more to prepare troops for assymetrical warfare. It must help them adjust to life when they come home — with jobs, housing, loans and legal assistance. It must enforce, not just approve, a policy of zero tolerance related to sexual harassment and assault.

Each element has a price, and collectively the cost will be astronomical. We must be prepared to pay it if we are sincere in our commitment to support our troops.

John Bateson was executive director of a nationally certified suicide prevention center in the San Francisco Bay Area for 16 years. His latest book is “The Last and Greatest Battle: Finding the Will, Commitment, and Strategy to End Military Suicides.”  via: Support our troops? Dealing with PTSD requires commitment