One day last week, I was on Facebook and noticed a string of heated comments on the group site, Army Moms, about a Dr. Phil show titled Heroes or Monsters. I don’t watch Dr. Phil so I did a little checking. It turns out the show was about returning veterans with post traumatic stress and the difficult challenges for the veteran and their families.
The topic is an important one. We all need to learn more about the various physical and mental stresses our veterans can potentially come home with. But by using the title: Heroes or Monsters, the Dr. Phil show chose to sensationalize the topic and in the process upset scores of veterans and their families.
The show violated the maxim adhered to by the medical profession of Do No Harm.
Rather than spend any more time discussing Dr. Phil’s show, I’ll add some links to helpful sites for anyone interested in supporting returning veterans with a post traumatic stress diagnosis.
Educating yourself is the best way to support the active duty or returning veteran soldier. It is important to note — just because someone goes into war, it does not mean that they automatically will come home with PTSD.
Veterans Affairs estimates that only 11 – 20 percent of U.S. Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans develop PTSD.
As the mother of a new second lieutenant who has not deployed yet, but will in the next year, I am reading as much as I can about the deployment experience of both the soldier and the family at home.
I am already finding out through my own experience that if you are the parent of a single member of the military and do not live near the base, it is very hard to find any information. The soldier is busy with their work and most Family Readiness Groups (FRG) are set up more with the spouse of the soldier in mind. I have heard good things about FRGs from some military moms.
Gift From Within, founded by Dr. Frank Ochberg, is for anyone who has a traumatic stress diagnosis or the people who care for someone with the diagnosis. Their web site features Articles; DVD’s on PTSD and Trauma; Trauma Support; PTSD & Trauma Bookstore (scroll down to the Veterans section); and Art, Poetry & Music sections.
One book listed in the Bookstore under the Veterans section that I would recommend reading is After the War Zone: A Practical Guide for Returning Troops and Their Families by Matthew J. Friedman, Ph.D. and Laurie B. Stone, Ph.D. Joyce Boaz the executive director of Gift from Within is the administrator for the Facebook group Gift From Within
Dr. Jonathan Shay, a clinical Psychiatrist and a 2007 MacArthur Fellow, has written two ground breaking books, Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character and Odysseus in America: Combat Trauma and the Trials of Homecoming. I first met Dr. Shay through the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma at the annual meeting of the International Society of Traumatic Stress Studies (ISTSS). Through his work with Vietnam veterans through the Department of Veterans Affairs Outpatient Clinic in Boston he became keenly aware of the challenges veterans who experienced psychological trauma live with day-to-day. To hear an extended interview with Dr. Shay where he addresses ”life after mortal danger” and “moral injury” experienced in war, see this link.
The National Center for PTSD has a helpful list of resources for family and friends here. If you are the spouse or loved one of a veteran and you believe they need help see the section Help Your Veteran Get Needed Care. Return from War is another good page with information for families.
It is important to take care of yourself during the deployment of a loved one. Tracie Ciambotti, a fellow contributor to Off the Base, started a group called Military Families Ministry, as a way for family members to come together in prayer. She also has a book titled, Battles of the Heart: Boot Camp for Military Moms.
I am on the board of directors of Care for The Troops, a nonprofit that provides information and training to families, clinicians, congregation and community leaders, so that they become more aware of the culture, unique symptoms and issues faced by military families. The web site offers educational materials and links to resources for anyone interested in supporting military members and their families.
The best thing we can do to support our military members and their loved ones is to become informed of potential issues returning members of the military face, then learn how to be a supportive presence.
We do not need to take the path Dr. Phil’s show did and sensationalize the trials of some of our returning veterans. Above all else, do no harm.
Filed under: Caregivers, Deployment, Military families, Non-Profit Organizations, PTSD, Social Media, U.S. Army Tagged: | Dorie Griggs, Milblogging.com, military families, Military Families Ministry, postaday2011, Posttraumatic stress disorder, PTSD