Viewpoint: Community must help returning soldiers re-adjustDiscrimination often arises out of ignorance, and we need to understand that these veterans will face many challenges as they re-adjust to civilian life. It is our responsibility as a community to make them feel welcome.
By: Jen Nutzman, South Washington County Bulletin
The war in Iraq has come to an end but for the people who have fought, the battle may just be beginning. Approximately one in eight soldiers returning home will suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Post-traumatic stress disorder occurs after experiencing an overwhelming event such as a roadside bomb.
The number of deployment rates for one soldier is higher than ever before, causing higher PTSD occurrences. A person can experience acute PTSD, meaning the symptoms occur for a period of less than three months; chronic PTSD, where the symptoms last more than three months; or delayed onset PTSD, where symptoms occur at least six months after the event. The symptoms of PTSD can include flashbacks, too much or too little sleep, anger, numbness and avoidance. As a result of a harsh military experience, post-traumatic stress disorder takes a toll on the returning soldier’s health, economic stability and personal relationships.
The term post-traumatic stress disorder was coined in 1980 by the National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder was established in 1989 as a part of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder treats sufferers of PTSD and works to find the root cause of PTSD. New brain scanning allows doctors to look at the hippocampus, which plays an important role in the formation of memories, and the amygdala, which helps form our feelings and fear. According to Mark Kittleson, head of the health science department at New Mexico State University, theorists believe the severity of the event makes the hippocampus and amygdala function improperly resulting in an alternation of the person’s feelings or sense of reality. The alteration of reality can cause the person to relive the torturous event over and over through flashbacks.
Due to the harsh military battlefield a returning soldier’s physical health and emotional health are greatly affected. One of the effects is a decline in the efficiency of the immune system due to a lack of sleep or too much sleep. According to the Human Diseases and Conditions, a person with post-traumatic stress disorder may also have a harder time reproducing. Reproduction is more difficult because of a chemical imbalance in the brain caused by an impairment of the hippocampus and amygdala, decreasing the amount of hormones released. A returning soldier has a tendency to feel isolated from the rest of the world. This isolation can result in a turn to alcohol or drugs, which can hurt employment chances for the returning solider.
Although there is no definite cure for PTSD, there are various therapies. Cognitive-behavior therapy concentrates on breathing and relaxation training, and also attempts to change certain actions and thoughts. Yoga and dance therapy also help relax a person suffering from PTSD.
Several resources are available to people who think they may be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. More information about the disorder is at www.namihelps.org/support.veterans.html or www.militaryonesource.com.
On behalf of the Cottage Grove Human Services/Human rights Commission I would like to invite our community to extend a hand to these veterans regardless of their race, gender, nationality, sexual orientation, ethnicity or disability status. Discrimination often arises out of ignorance, and we need to understand that these veterans will face many challenges as they re-adjust to civilian life. It is our responsibility as a community to make them feel welcome.
Nutzman is a senior at East Ridge High School and member of the Cottage Grove Human Services/Human Rights Commission.