August 9, 2008

Mental Health Field Unprepared for Epidemic of PTSD

I received this email today and it touches on the topic of how unprepared our nation and mental health field is to handle the cases of PTSD we have right now. What will our veterans do when we have become inundated with the hundreds of thousands of combat vets seeking help in the next 20 years? Suicide rates have begun to climb on a continuous rate since the inception of the war. This trend will only increase in the next couple of decades, as of right now over 6,000 veterans kill themselves each year.

Email from a reader:
I will be reading your blog in detail. I am a counselor in [your nearest town], I have counseled 3 former soldiers, all with varying degrees of combat stress. I wish I could say that I have helped them. There is really no training information for civilian counselors that has satisfied me. The VA is little or no help to me, but I realize that I have to get more savvy about how it can help them. [The nearest base] is little or no help to civilian counselors. They didn’t even have a PTSD group on base until the 7th soldier killed himself in 2007 and received national attention b/c his widow insisted to national news that he was not helped appropriately. That was one who was credited as suicide. I know of a soldier who killed himself and the Army hushed it by giving his widow death benefits by listing it as a combat injury.

Anyway, I have applied for Tricare approval to become a provider and been denied on bogus grounds (last time they said there was no evidence that [my college] is an accredited institution – of course it is) twice despite the horrible mental health needs of the soldiers that any Joe Shomoe can read about online. I’ve appealed a third time. It all sickens me. However, as word spreads that I am open to helping and I have no military ties, they will come. AND they will pay out of their own pockets to get some relief. I want to be more prepared. Maybe you can help me to help them.

I’ll be in touch.
My response:
Thank you Joe (name changed) for your compassion towards veterans with PTSD. This insidious mental injury is all the rage in the news at this time, due to the perseverance of families with soldiers suffering from PTSD and the resulting suicides. I say all the rage because the media puts the face on this issue like things are being done to help, when in reality we are just beginning to touch on the topic and have little research on the complexities of PTSD or the resources to help our veterans. In addition we have insufficient training programs in our colleges and for practitioners already in the field. I will have to take an independent study course to be able to include trauma therapy geared toward PTSD at U of L, so I can be prepared to give our veterans the specialized care they need. We will be facing a mental health epidemic of proportions never seen before in the history of American Warfare. With the unprecedented levels of sustained combat and extended multiple tours our veterans will be facing the crippling effects of PTSD with their families as well as the public with generational consequences.

Thank you again, for your concern and commitment, I will do what I can to help you in your endeavors. I can only offer my experience as it relates to me and my life as I am not yet in the capacity of a therapist. I can answer your questions and give you insights as it pertains to my intuitions and knowledge that I have acquired.

I would like to put your email and my response in my blog as it covers and underscores the issue of how little prepared we are to handle the ensuing issue of PTSD.


  1. No offense to the brave men and women who have served our country but in addition to the mental health epidemic you mention, I think we are going to see a serious spike in violent criminal activity.

    When soldiers return to a bad economy and can't find a decent job to feed their family they resort to any means necessary.

    There will be an increase in well planned and well executed bank and armored car robberies when groups of down on their luck soldiers team up.

  2. Oh good Lord, Steve. Surely you have some historical evidence to back this up. How can you say "no offense to the brave men and women" and then go on to obviously offend them? I'm not saying there won't be an instance here and there, but it'll happen all over the place - if it happens at all; not just with former Soldiers.

  3. Well, CJ since it's a prediction of a future event it doesn't really need a historical precedence. Much like the original post predicts a deluge of veterans seeking mental health services in the next 20 years. But since you asked...

    FTRA founded by Viet Nam vets. Hell's Angels founded by WWII vets. Motorcycle gangs like veterans with an MI back ground. (I was actually recruited by a motorcycle gang shortly before I got off active duty. It was not one of the big 4, it was a local fledgling outfit)

    John Dillinger, Gary Heidnick, Timothy McVeigh, Charles Whitman, Lee Harvey Oswald, Shawn Nelson, I could go on.

    When I was in law enforcement we collected information on the branch of service of arrestees. The increase in violent crime in the late 60's and early 70's has been attributed to disenfranchised Viet Nam veterans.

    Stars and Stripes did a multi part investigative piece on gang members joining the military.

    They aren't joining out of patriotism, they are joining to learn tactics and techniques to make them better criminals when they get out.

  4. Steve, you go on and on about what you think you know. I have two questions for you. Are you a combat veteran? and, What experience other than talking do you have in this area of interest?

  5. No I'm not a combat veteran. I wasn't aware you only wanted combat veterans to comment on your blog. Are you saying only a combat veteran can be diagnosed with PTSD? I guess all those first responders on 9/11 are faking it.

    I do think ten years of federal law enforcement in DC and NYC give me an informed opinion on this topic.

    Many of the gangs in the Wild West were Civil War veterans(from both sides).

    You'll also see many veterans having productive law enforcement careers, it' a natural transition. Many of the early SWAT teams were made up of Viet Nam veterans looking for a way to put their military skill sets to use.

  6. I welcome all comments and opinions either supportive or otherwise. It is the exchange of information that generates a greater understanding in matters important.

    My older brother was in the twin towers on the 33rd floor when the planes slammed into them. It was his instincts that told him to get out when over the intercom the message was to relax and stay where he was. He was one of the first to get out, he has suffered from PTSD since. So, I'm pretty sure that he nor they are not faking it.

    It is these type of comments that make me question where you are coming from. Making outlandish and provocative statements without including any substance also makes me question your motives.

    Have you read my latest posting? I think that I addressed your initial statement on this post with it.

  7. I believe I have provided the substance to my "outlandish and provocative statements".

    Why do you think the G created the GI Bill after WWII? Because they wanted to thank veterans? Hardly, it was because they feared them. After the Bonus March of 1932 and the exposed Business Plot of 1933 the G knew they had to do something to placate returning vets.

    The zero down home loan was to tie them down with a mortgage so they couldn't go marching off to DC on a whim. The job training and college benefits were to keep them from being idle or riding around the country on freight trains.

  8. Steve, ad hominem arguements have carried you away from the scope of the message from my blog.

    I am here in cyberspace to talk of PTSD and how that effects the soldier, veteran, their family and friends.

    I appreciate your intellectual jousting and find it to be challenging. I look forward to continuing contestation on the central topic of this blog.


Please share your comments, stories and information. Thank you. ~ Scott Lee