Treating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in veterans
PHILADELPHIA - April 10, 2012 (WPVI) -- For war veterans in our area who suffer from post-traumatic stress, there are services that can help them cope.
Following in his grandfather's footsteps, 46-year-old Glenn Schumacher served his country for 25 years in the National Guard and Army Reserves.
During that time, he spent 10 months in Iraq.
"We were doing raids, searches, we were going after high value targets. A lot of fighting, IEDS," said Glenn.
Glenn also spent time in Afghanistan, and again he had to be constantly on alert. After 9 months, when it was time to come home to his wife and son, he struggled to adjust.
"You know, short-tempered, getting angry at certain things for no reason at all," said Glenn.
Dr. Dave Oslin, head of behavioral health at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center, says anger is a key sign of post traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. He says today all veterans are screened several times for the problem when they return home.
About 30-percent show symptoms, some mild, some severe.
"PTSD can be a devastating disorder," said Oslin. "These guys are basically living on the edge constantly. So startle, anger, that kind of outburst are very much part of the disorder."
Recently a national survey showed many veterans have to wait several weeks for treatment. But Oslin says the system has greatly improved over the years and they do their best to help those in need as quickly as possible.
Still, it's not always easy to get veterans to commit to the therapy.
"It's not a simple pill that I can prescribe that's going to make this go away," said Oslin.
Col. Vanessa Baron, who served in both Iraqi wars and now works with other veterans, says another obstacle is the stigma surrounding mental health issues.
"They don't want to go to the VA, or do anything dealing with the military to discuss the fact that they feel different," said Col. Baron.
"I think that one thing they could do to help is to have some type of meetings or counseling where everybody has to participate in it and actually open up," she said.
Lori Maas, a social worker at the VA, says there are smaller clinics in the area that try to normalize the process for all veterans.
"When they come in, they will see a primary care provider, a social worker and a mental health provider that same day," she said.
But ultimately it is up to the veteran to accept help, whether it's one day out or years later. Glenn went through several weeks of psychotherapy. He said it was difficult but worth it, "rather than suffering through it for years on end."
military, veterans, healthcheck, ali gorman, r.n.
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