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January 07, 2012 10:37 PM UTC

A worthy column from one of my favorite MilBlogger

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  • by: SSG_Dan

SPC Horton’s “Army of Dude” MilBlog is one of the best in the nation. The VA was smart enough to hire him last year as one of their full-time PAO staff (they can’t have bloggers, just PAO reps) and they don’t muzzle him that much.

This was posted earlier in the week as the press went into a tizzy about the Mt Rainer shooting….

The Mt. Rainier Shooting and PTSD: How the Media Got It Wrong

The massacre at Ft. Hood two years ago stunned the nation in its cold-blooded calculation. The high body count was just as shocking as the fact soldiers were killed not in combat, but on the grounds of a military installation. Before the slain soldiers were buried, many in the media speculated on a link between combat stress and the shooting, the correlation being that war trauma had driven a soldier to commit those crimes.

When news reports finally explained that Nidal Hasan hadn’t deployed during his Army career, the narrative shifted to secondary PTSD. The thought was that his work as a psychiatrist could have caused it. The reality, however, was that Hasan’s personal beliefs about the United States and the military were among the chief motivations behind the killings. Taken together, the prevailing narrative from those early reports-intentional or not-was this: Post-traumatic stress is a strong factor in violent crimes, and anyone who has deployed to a combat zone is capable of the same.

That narrative-fairly common since John Rambo hit movie screens in 1982-bubbled to the surface once again with the killing of Park Ranger Margaret Anderson on January 1st by Benjamin Colton Barnes, a 24 year-old Iraq Veteran. Within hours of the Rainier shooting, journalists and writers clamored to mention Barnes’ war record, combat stress, and even his duty station in a dizzying effort to find a connection.

The problem? It wasn’t true.

http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntag…

SPC Horton was a Iraq vet in a Stryker Unit – probably seeing the worst of urban combat of any of the OIF Rotations. He has his own struggles, well-documented in his blog and on the VA’s.

What I find the most necessary of his writing is this call to action:


We must confront the serious issues of mental health that affect those who served. Post-traumatic stress is one of the most common subjects on this blog-and one of the most vital aspects of VA’s presence online has been connecting Veterans in crisis with support services. At the same time, Veterans, the public, and the media must do two things.

First, we must step out of the feedback loop that both feeds and informs the stereotype of the broken, mentally unstable Vet. The damaging caricature proved to be difficult for Vietnam Vets to overcome. And with a new generation coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan, history will repeat itself until we take a moment and realize that faulty assumptions are dangerous and that anecdotal, sensationalist conclusions are designed to help sell newspapers and generate hits rather than responsibly inform.



Second, we must overcome the availability heuristic by keeping perspective on the prevalence of post-traumatic stress and, more importantly, violence committed by those who experience it.
A 2008 RAND study estimated that 18.5 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans have symptoms of post-traumatic stress or major depression. But the vast majority of folks with post-traumatic stress recover successfully with support from family, friends, community, and effective treatment. PTSD and other mental health issues don’t just lead to challenges, but also to post-traumatic growth for many people. And that’s a story that needs to be told more often.

WORD.

VAntage Point: The Official Blog of the US Department of Veterans Affairs

http://www.blogs.va.gov/VAntage/

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