Commentary

July 6, 2012

Focus on War’s Unseen Wounds

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a National Post-traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Day commentary published in the San Antonio Express-News, June 27, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta asked Americans to join the Defense Department in its continuing efforts to address the unseen wounds of war.

Here is the secretary’s commentary:

For more than 10 years of war, America’s finest men and women have repeatedly deployed to distant battlefields to defend our nation. They have performed magnificently, enduring the brutal and unpredictable nature of modern warfare in marketplaces, road, and fields. Each of them has come back changed. As our service members return home to American supermarkets, highways, and ball games, the stress of combat often continues.

For some it happens in a crowded place, for others it is when they are alone. All of a sudden, they are in a fight once again: one that is harder to see, harder to understand, and leaves too many fighting on their own.

Post traumatic stress disorder is a cost of war that has been paid by generations of America’s veterans. It has been called shell-shock, combat fatigue, hysteria and other names. It took decades to accurately recognize the nature of this injury and how to help veterans heal.

At the Department of Defense, we believe the unseen wounds of war are every bit as pressing and every bit as treatable as the visible wounds that have left a permanent physical mark on thousands of our heroes. While we have made great strides in treating wounds from IED blasts and bullets, we still struggle with the scale of unseen injuries caused by combat stress and their manifestation in substance abuse, depression, relationship issues and suicide. But steadily, we are developing a strategy to confront this challenge.

First, addressing post traumatic stress begins with leadership. All of those in command positions throughout the military, beginning with junior officers and NCOs, need to be sensitive to signs of stress in the ranks. Military leaders ensure their units are physically fit. We must elevate mental fitness to the same level of importance.

Second, we must continue to expand access to quality behavioral and mental health care. The military services are embedding behavioral health professionals into line units and primary care clinics. We now have more than 9,000 mental health professionals in military hospitals and clinics, a 35 percent increase in three years. As a result, the number of PTSD cases diagnosed increased by more than 25 percent, even as the total number of deployed troops decreased.

There are additional steps the Department of Defense will be taking to improve care. All of the military services are now systematically reviewing the PTSD screening process for wounded warriors to help ensure we provide the best holistic care.

Earlier this month, the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund announced plans to construct state of the art interdisciplinary mental health research centers at nine of our largest military installations.

We are also working to reduce knowledge gaps in patient history for service members moving to health care provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Responding to a challenge from President Obama, we are on track to unify the electronic health care record systems of both departments by 2017. This will greatly reduce bureaucratic red tape and provide VA doctors with up-to-date patient information, including combat medical records.

Third, we must enlist all Americans to address the stigma of getting help. We know we’re not reaching every service member and veteran. So, on National Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness day, I urge you to talk with America’s veterans. Recognize that normal responses to traumatic events include feeling scared, anxious, sad or guilty. Yet, if these feelings persist after a month, get worse, or start to return — something may not be right.

We want our entire military family — those who are serving today and those who have served in the past — to know that seeking help is a sign of strength and inspiration for others to do the same. In partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs, we maintain the Military and Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255. Since 2007, this line has taken 600,000 calls, made 93,000 referrals and rescued 22,000 from potential suicide. These mental health professionals are available 24/7 to address immediate issues or help those in need find care across the country.

The end of the Iraq war and the drawdown in Afghanistan will ease some of the strain on our troops but post traumatic stress will remain a critical issue for decades to come. The Department of Defense remains determined to urgently address the unseen wounds of war. We ask all Americans to join us in helping to protect those who have fought to protect us.




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
hb

Mental health services available for all Team March members, families

March Field offers mental health services through Elaine Valentine, 452nd Air Mobility Wing, director of psychological health and a licensed clinical social worker with more than 15 years of experience in the mental health care...
 
 
Courtesy photo

Women can succeed in a man’s world

Courtesy photo Pamela Hann, March Base Civil Engineer, surveys a consturction project at March Air Reserve Base, California. Hann became the first female BCE in Air Force Reserve Command on May 15, 2005, and is responsible for ...
 
 
NWH3

National Women’s History Month: Weaving the Stories of Women’s Lives

(Final in a 4-part series) The National Women’s History Project’s 2015 theme is “Weaving the Stories of Women’s Lives.” In this ongoing series, we highlight individual women who made a difference in the fabric or our ...
 

 
Miracles

Retired Air Force Reservist finds inspiration through loss

Courtesy of Evan Money (First in a three-part series chronicling Angela Alexander’s incredible story which led to a book, a ministry and now, a documentary.) MIRACLE: “An unusual or wonderful event that is believed to be ca...
 
 
U.S. Air Force art by Master Sgt. Elizabeth Concepcion/Released

Airmen stay focused in DOD competition

U.S. Air Force art by Master Sgt. Elizabeth Concepcion/Released Digital painting created in Adobe Photoshop. This artwork was created to depict the US Army occupation in Vietnam and was inspired by the story of a Vietnam war ve...
 
 
Photo: Air Force
Ninth Chief Master

Former CMSAF Binnicker passes away at 76

Photo: Air ForceNinth Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James Binnicker died on March 21. Former Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James Binnicker, who was the service’s top enlisted man from 1986 to 1990, passed away in Ca...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>


Directory powered by Business Directory Plugin