Archive for the ‘PTSD’ Category

Brain-injured troops face unclear long-term risks

December 4, 2008

Many of the thousands of troops who suffered traumatic brain injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan are at risk of long-term health problems including depression and Alzheimer’s-like dementia, but it’s impossible to predict how high those risks are, researchers say.

About 22 percent of wounded troops have a brain injury, concluded the prestigious Institute of Medicine — and it urged precise steps for studying how these patients fare years later so chances to help aren’t missed.

The Veterans Affairs Department, which requested the report, and the Pentagon already are taking some of the recommended steps. But a report out Thursday highlights the urgency.

By LAURAN NEERGAARD, AP Medical Writer

An Afghan soldier keeps watch at a checkpoint in Kabul in August ...

“I don’t think we really knew how big a hole in scientific knowledge there is about blast-induced brain injuries,” said Dr. George Rutherford of the University of California, San Francisco, the report’s lead researcher.

Traumatic brain injury, or TBI, is a signature injury of the Iraq war. Most do not involve penetrating head wounds but damage hidden inside the skull caused by an explosion’s pressure wave. It can range from a mild concussion to severe injury. And because symptoms may not be immediately apparent, troops may not seek care.

“If you have a gunshot wound to some specific part of your brain, I can tell you the consequences,” Rutherford said. But with blast concussions, it’s not even possible to say “if you have six of these, are you six times more likely to have something bad happen to you than if you’ve had one?”

Returning soldiers have reported headaches, dizziness, memory loss, confusion, irritability, insomnia and depression. The military has said most of the TBI-injured troops recover with treatment.

“There’s clearly a whole bunch of people who have mild TBI who have no negative outcomes,” Rutherford agreed.

Related:
PTSD, psychological health and traumatic brain injuries

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081204/ap_on_he_me/med_brain_injury

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PTSD, psychological health and traumatic brain injuries

December 3, 2008

The number one question we see here at Peace and Freedom is: how can we better help soldiers returning from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?  Dealing appropriately with psychological health and traumatic brain injuries is the watchword…

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The military finally is getting ahead in the head business — tackling the psychological health and traumatic brain injuries of soldiers and their families in a comprehensive way.

It’s happening at the moment under the leadership of an energetic, Shakespeare-quoting Army psychiatrist, Brig. Gen. Loree K. Sutton. Gen. Sutton holds a medical degree from Loma Linda University in Loma Linda, Calif. She completed her internship and residency in psychiatry at Letterman Army Medical Center in San Francisco.

By Ann Geracimos    
The Washington Times

Brig. Gen. Loree K. Sutton is director of the Defense Centers of Excellence, an arm of the Department of Defense dealing with the health and wellness of soldiers. The department seeks to care for troops before and after they suffer trauma. (Rod Lamkey Jr./The Washington Times)

Above: Brig. Gen. Loree K. Sutton is director of the Defense Centers of Excellence, an arm of the Department of Defense dealing with the health and wellness of soldiers. 

Gen. Sutton, 49, is director of the year-old Defense Centers of Excellence (DCoE), an arm of the Department of Defense dealing with health matters. The concept is to find the means of caring for troops and their leaders before, as well as after, service members and their relations suffer the debilitating effects of trauma.

The game plan focuses on building up what is being called “resilience” among the military’s many warrior volunteers as well as providing more and better treatment options for visible and invisible injuries of this type in a totally integrated program for recovery and reintegration. Gen. Sutton describes it as a network “like the Internet — a collaborative global network” functioning in a partnership, which is expected to take four years to put fully in place.

The plan, and its three R’s — resilience, recovery, reintegration — had a big workout at a recent three-day DCoE symposium, “Warrior Resilience Conference: Partnering With the Line,” and attended mainly by service members involved in health matters. Billed as the first of its kind, the event at the Fairfax Marriott at Fair Oaks typified what the organization sees as its mandate: promoting a shift of emphasis in the military away from what is known, in jargon terms, as an “illness-based medical model” toward a “wellness-centric resilience continuum.”

The latter phrase is a mouthful, with good reason, covering as it does a range of approaches that almost directly counter traditional military culture and practices.

“It’s ironic how the military trains us to overcome discomfort but not how to deal with invisible injuries,” Gen. Sutton notes. “As soldiers, we keep a lid on our feelings while we do our job. But nobody tells us when to take the lid off or how to deal with it when we do.”

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2008/dec
/02/military-marches-toward-wellness/

Military Bases Brace for Surge in PTSD, Stress-Related Disorders

November 29, 2008

Some 15,000 soldiers are heading home to this sprawling base after spending more than a year at war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and military health officials are bracing for a surge in brain injuries and psychological problems among those troops.

By LOLITA C. BALDOR, Associated Press Writer

Facing prospects that one in five of the 101st Airborne Division soldiers will suffer from stress-related disorders, the base has nearly doubled its psychological health staff. Army leaders are hoping to use the base’s experiences to assess the long-term impact of repeated deployments.

The three 101st Airborne combat brigades, which have begun arriving home, have gone through at least three tours in Iraq. The 3rd Brigade also served seven months in Afghanistan, early in the war. Next spring, the 4th Brigade will return from a 15-month tour in Afghanistan. So far, roughly 10,000 soldiers have come back; the remainder are expected by the end of January.

Army leaders say they will closely watch Fort Campbell to determine the proper medical staffing levels needed to aid soldiers who have endured repeated rotations in the two war zones.

“I don’t know what to expect. I don’t think anybody knows,” said Gen. Peter Chiarelli, vice chief of staff of the Army, as he flew back to Washington from a recent tour of the base’s medical facilities. “That’s why I want to see numbers from the 101st’s third deployment.”

What happens with the 101st Airborne, he said, will let the Army help other bases ready for similar homecomings in the next year or two, when multiple brigades from the 4th Infantry Division and the 1st Cavalry Division return.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081129/ap_on_go_ca_st_pe/sol
dier_stress;_ylt=AmE8_PG3c.WU2jnAbvUzG3Ss0NUE

Veteran’s kin wants answers on PTSD drugs

November 13, 2008

A West Virginia man whose son survived the battlefields of Iraq only to die in his sleep at home is crusading to find other military families whose loved ones also have died after taking drugs prescribed for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

By Andrea Billups
The Washington Times 

Stan White’s son Andrew, who was found dead in bed at the family’s Cross Lanes, W.Va., home on Feb. 12, 2007, is one among a cluster of young veterans in the state who have died in their sleep with little explanation. Now Mr. White wants the federal government to monitor the drugs it prescribes to some 375,000 soldiers who have been diagnosed with mental trauma.

So far, he has identified nine veterans across the country – including four in West Virginia – who have died in their sleep after taking antidepressant and antipsychotic medications.

Mr. White has met with members of Congress and asked for Capitol Hill hearings to investigate the deaths. His research prompted a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) investigation into Andrew’s and one other death, which were found to have been caused by “combined drug intoxication.” But the investigation could not determine whether the prescribed medications were at fault….

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2008
/nov/13/veterans-kin-demands-answ
ers-on-ptsd-drugs/

Veteran’s Day: Remember Their Health Care

November 11, 2008

While fixing the economy will certainly be a dominant issue for both President-elect Obama and the 111th Congress, we hope, on this Veterans Day, that health care for our wounded warriors will also be a top priority. Regrettably, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are likely to continue to add to the numbers of veterans in need of mental and physical treatment and rehabilitation.

To meet this need, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) must have sufficient resources provided in a timely and predictable manner next year, and for years to come.

About 18 percent of men and women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have already returned home at risk of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression, according to a recent study by the Rand Corp.

By Raymond Dempsey
The Washington Times

Another 19 percent are estimated of having experienced a traumatic brain injury (TBI) caused by improvised explosive devices that “rattle” the brain. In total more than 300,000 veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may already be suffering from these often invisible wounds of war.

In too many cases, the VA is unable to properly treat the physical and mental scars of war, in part because its budget has been late for most of the past two decades, and the amount of funding – which has thankfully grown in the last two years – is wildly unpredictable from year to year.

The result is that the VA is severely constrained in trying to plan or manage its budget. Robert Perreault, a former Veterans Health Administration chief business officer, has rightly noted in congressional testimony that “VA funding and the appropriations process is a process no effective business would tolerate.”

Such haphazard financing can directly affect the quality of care at VA hospitals and clinics across the country. Insufficient or late funding can mean an increase in waiting times for appointments. Purchasing new and replacement medical equipment may be put on hold, further delaying the delivery of needed medical treatment. And life-altering conditions such as PTSD and TBI may go undertreated or are not treated at all if specialized mental health care personnel cannot be hired when needed.

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2008/
nov/11/remember-health-care-for-veterans/

General bucks culture of silence on mental health

November 8, 2008

It takes a brave soldier to do what Army Maj. Gen. David Blackledge did in Iraq. It takes as much bravery to do what he did when he got home.

Blackledge got psychiatric counseling to deal with wartime trauma, and now he is defying the military’s culture of silence on the subject of mental health problems and treatment.

By PAULINE JELINEK, Associated Press Writer

“It’s part of our profession … nobody wants to admit that they’ve got a weakness in this area,” Blackledge said of mental health problems among troops returning from America’s two wars.

In this photograph provided by Maj. Gen. David Blackledge, Blackledge, ... 
In this photograph provided by Maj. Gen. David Blackledge, Blackledge, right, stands in front of a helicopter in Iraq in this undated photograph. Blackledge got psychiatric counseling to deal with wartime trauma, and now is defying the military’s culture of silence on the subject of mental health problems and treatment. ‘It’s part of our profession … nobody wants to admit that they’ve got a weakness in this area,’ Blackledge said of mental health problems among troops returning from America’s two wars. The man at left is unidentified.(AP Photo/Blackledge Family Photo)

“I have dealt with it. I’m dealing with it now,” said Blackledge, who came home with post-traumatic stress. “We need to be able to talk about it.”

As the nation marks another Veterans Day, thousands of troops are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with anxiety, depression and other emotional problems.

Up to 20 percent of the more than 1.7 million who’ve served in the wars are estimated to have symptoms. In a sign of how tough it may be to change attitudes, roughly half of those who need help aren’t seeking it, studies have found.

Despite efforts to reduce the stigma of getting treatment, officials say they fear generals and other senior leaders remain unwilling to go for help, much less talk about it, partly because they fear it will hurt chances for promotion.

That reluctance is also worrisome because it sends the wrong signal to younger officers and perpetuates the problem leaders are working to reverse.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081108/ap_on_go_ca_st_pe/
military_mental_health;_ylt=AmZE9YFVxoU6x8QhB_jGf6Ws0NUE

British troops back from Afghanistan are 10 times more likely to suffer mental illness, say MOD

November 5, 2008

British troops returning from combat in Afghanistan are 10 times more likely to develop post-traumatic stress disorder than colleagues who stay at home.

Last year almost 4,000 military personnel were diagnosed with mental health problems including hundreds suffering from depression, mood swings, alcoholism or ‘adjustment disorders’ after serving in war zones.

By Matthew Hickley
The Mail (UK)

This is because mentally-scarred troops often suffer in silence for many years before seeking help.

Mental health statistics released by the Ministry of Defence showed 3,917 serving armed forces were assessed as having mental disorders in  2007.

While most conditions showed no significantly heightened risk for those returning from Iraq or Afghanistan, PTSD was a dramatic exception.

Officials said that while numbers of new PTSD cases were modest there was a ‘marked increase’ in the risk for those recently deployed on combat operations, accounting for 38 out of 43 of the cases recorded in the last three months of the year.

Overall those who have served in Afghanistan were more than nine times more likely to develop the crippling condition than their colleagues who have not served abroad, while for Iraq the figure was almost seven times.

While defence officials insisted the number of PTSD cases was ‘fairly low’ – with 180 servicemen and women diagnosed last year – veterans’s charities warned that the figures could be only the tip of the iceberg.

Read the rest:
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1082991/British-troops-Afghanistan-10-times-likely-suffer-mental-illness-say-MOD.html?ITO=1490

soldiers

Figures showed 3,917 new cases of armed services personnel assessed to have a mental disorder

Flood of wounded GIs swamps care units

November 3, 2008

In a rush to correct reports of substandard care for wounded soldiers, the Army flung open the doors of new specialized treatment centers so wide that up to half the soldiers currently enrolled do not have injuries serious enough to justify being there…

Army leaders are putting in place stricter screening procedures to stem the flood of patients overwhelming the units — a move that eventually will target some for closure.

By LOLITA C. BALDOR, Associated Press Writer

According to interviews and data provided to the AP, the number of patients admitted to the 36 Warrior Transition Units and nine other community-based units jumped from about 5,000 in June 2007, when they began, to a peak of nearly 12,500 in June 2008.

The units provide coordinated medical and mental health care, track soldiers’ recovery and provide broader legal, financial and other family counseling. They serve Army active duty and reserve soldiers.

Just 12 percent of the soldiers in the units had battlefield injuries while thousands of others had minor problems that did not require the complex new network of case managers, nurses and doctors, according to Brig. Gen. Gary H. Cheek, the director of the Army’s warrior care office.

In this undated photograph provided by the Department of Defense, ... 
In this undated photograph provided by the Department of Defense, Brig. Gen. Gary Cheek is seen. In a rush to correct reports of sub-standard care for wounded soldiers, the Army flung open the doors of new specialized treatment centers so wide that up to half of the soldiers currently enrolled don’t have injuries serious enough to be there, the Associated Press has learned. The overcrowding was a ‘self-inflicted wound,’ said Cheek, who also is an assistant surgeon general. ‘We’re dedicating this kind of oversight and management where, truthfully, only half of those soldiers really needed this.’ (AP Photo/Department ofDefense)

The overcrowding was a “self-inflicted wound,” said Cheek, who also is an assistant surgeon general. “We’re dedicating this kind of oversight and management where, truthfully, only half of those soldiers really needed this.”

Cheek said it is difficult to tell how many patients eventually will be in the units. But he said soldiers currently admitted will not be tossed out if they do not meet the new standards. Instead, the tighter screening will weed out the population over time.

“We’re trying change it back,” to serve patients who have more serious or multiple injuries that require about six months or more of coordinated treatment, he said.

By restricting use of the coordinated care units to soldiers with more complex, long-term ailments, the Army hopes in the long run to close or consolidate as many as 10 of the transition units, Cheek said during an interview in his Virginia office near the Pentagon.

In the past, a soldier with a torn knee ligament would have surgery and then go on light duty, such as answering phones, while getting physical therapy. But last October, the Army began allowing soldiers with less serious injuries such as that bad knee to go to the warrior units.

The expansion came in the wake of reports about poor conditions at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., including shoddy housing and bureaucratic delays for outpatients there.

Brigade commanders began shipping to the transition centers anyone in their unit who could not deploy because of an injury or illness. That burdened the system with soldiers who really did not need case managers to set up their appointments, nurses to check their medications and other specialists to provide counseling for issues such as stress disorders.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081103/ap_
on_go_ca_st_pe/wounded_warriors;_ylt=
AoQlAisEZ88qx8GhXb.Gzsus0NUE

US soldiers in Iraq can find stress deadlier than enemy

October 15, 2008

By Emmanuel Duparcq

BAGHDAD (AFP) – In the early hours of September 14, US sergeant Joseph Bozicevich allegedly drew his rifle, aimed and shot to death two of his superiors on a military base south of the Iraqi capital.

US marine smoking a cigarette at a military camp in Fallujah, ...
US marine smoking a cigarette at a military camp in Fallujah, 50 kms west of Baghdad. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have increased the number of US soldiers suffering post-traumatic stress disorder leading to higher rates of suicides and divorce, according to recent military reports.(AFP/File/Roslan Rahman)

According to several US media reports, Bozicevich, 39, allegedly killed staff sergeant Darris Dawson 24, and sergeant Wesley Durbin 26, because he could not bear being berated by them.

A US military statement said that “a US soldier is in custody in connection with the shooting deaths. He’s being held in custody pending review by a military magistrate.”

Dawson’s step-mother Maxine Mathis later told newspaper in Pensacola in Florida that before the shooting he had complained to her and spoken of the impact the Iraq war was having on many young soldiers.

“Momma, I’m not so afraid of the enemy. I’m afraid of our young guys over there, because they’re so jumpy and quick to shoot,” Mathis quoted Dawson as saying.

Trauma, stress, fatigue, depression and tensions linked to family problems are taking their toll on US soldiers deployed in Iraq and are often more threatening than the Islamist insurgents they are expected to fight.

“We know that the stress of war, which includes repeated and long deployments, is having an effect on our soldiers and their families,” said Colonel Elspeth Cameron-Ritchie, a military psychiatrist based at US army medical command in Fort Detrick, located at Frederick, Maryland.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have increased the number of US soldiers suffering Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), leading to higher rates of suicides and divorce, according to military reports.

Nearly a fifth of American soldiers deployed in Iraq suffer PTSD, according to the US military’s battlemind.army.mil website.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/200810
15/wl_mideast_afp/iraqunrestus;_
ylt=Am3KI8FI45WzV_T0HQoXlIWs0NUE

Crisis: Soldiers, Marines Returning from War with Mental Health Issues

April 18, 2008

By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
.
Soldiers and Marines are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with mental health issues at an alarming rate.

According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, as many as 1 in 5 U.S. Soldiers and Marines returning from the war are suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Unfortunately, we at Peace and Freedom believe that the numbers will eventually exceed the GAO estimate.

We got interested in PTSD in the winter of 2006-2007 when visiting the mental health ward of the Veterans Administration Hospital in Washington DC with a friend. Every man in the waiting area had a story. Most served in Vietnam but my friend served in Korea.  All had PTSD.

After researching, we ended up with so much information collected from doctors, nurses and sufferers that I wrote a five article series on PTSD.

In February I wrote, “The VA vastly underestimated the number of PTSD cases it expected to see in 2006, predicting it would see 2,900 cases. As of June 2006, the VA had seen more than 34,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans for PTSD.”

In other words, the VA put a target on the barn then missed the barn and the state it was in.

Now the GAO says there may be 300,000 PTSD cases among the Soldiers and Marines returning from the war.

That may still be underestimated.

Why?

First: many soldiers have a “macho man” self estimate and refuse to admit that they need treatment.  We have hundreds of email from military families asking how they should deal with a “macho man” who is showing signs of PTSD, depression, drug and alcohol abuse and other mental health disorders that are probably war related.

Second: the costs of treatment could be staggering and long term.

And third: Many PTSD sufferers don’t appear in the medical system until years or even decades later after masking their symptoms with alcohol and drugs.

We have great respect for the GAO and the U.S. military.  Yet we believe the PTSD problem in the U.S. military to be catastrophic and still under estimated. 

We hope the issue of PTSD and all its variations including depression, alcoholism and drug abuse is tackled honestly and well by the United States.

Related:

War Wounds of the Mind Part VI: Half of Soldiers, Marines Returning With PTSD — Red Alert
http://johnib.wordpress.com/2007/05/05/war-wounds-of-the-mind-part-vi-soldiers-returning-with-ptsd-red-alert/

Read Part I at:
http://johnib.wordpress.com/2007/02/15/war-wounds-of-the-mind-part-i-historical-perspective-on-ptsd/

Read Part II at:
http://johnib.wordpress.com/2007/02/16/war-wounds-of-the-mind-part-ii-discussions-with-ptsd-sufferers/

War Wounds of the Mind Part III: The Commanders

War Wounds of The Mind Part IV: A Warning About Troops Returning from Iraq and Afghanistan

In God’s Hands Now: The Passing of a Stateless Soldier and a Good Man