Officials Say Progress Must Continue in PTSD Treatment
By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jun. 27, 2012 Great strides have been made in treating service members with post-traumatic stress disorder, but progress must continue, military and medical leaders told an audience here today.
The military’s three surgeons general and the Army’s senior sergeant major spoke at an event to mark the third-annual National Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Day.
Sgt. Major of the Army Raymond Chandler III called himself the poster child of someone with PTSD who is concerned about the stigma associated with seeking treatment, something which he says is an on-going issue for many.
His first brush with a life-threatening event in Iraq became life-altering, he said, adding that it caused him to do things that led to a “downward spiral.” For example, during his post-deployment health risk assessment, he wasn’t completely honest about his situation because he was being redeployed.
“I felt that if I said truthfully what happened and what I was feeling, I wouldn’t be able to succeed and move on. I’ve come a long way since 2005,” he added, noting that he had turned off a good part of his life -- the emotional, spiritual and physical elements to deal with being the professional soldier.
Chandler finally entered a two-week behavioral health program which he said made a significant difference.
In 2011, when he interviewed with then-Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. for the job as Sergeant Major of the Army, he said Casey was glad to have him onboard with his experience in PTSD counseling, because Chandler could speak to the challenges and treatment.
Chandler got the job and went on to tell his story to service members and families.
“I think we’ve made a difference,” Chandler said. “I know in many of our soldiers’ lives and the many challenges of the past 10 years, we’ve made tremendous strides in our behavioral health care access, and our care and quality of care, [but] we still have a long way to go.”
“I believe we will work through this and we will be better as a nation,” he said.
Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho told the audience “As a society in military medicine we must be able to provide care for the invisible wounds of war in the long run. As a nation, it is our opportunity to partner and lead the way in breaking the silence [of the invisible wounds].”.
“While it is difficult to ask [for help], it is more difficult, and frankly, tragic to lose a loved one … to suicide or any high-risk behavior,” Horoho said. “Soldiers and families must come to realize that [cases of PTSD] resulting from deployment are curable with the proper care."
The majority of service members with PTSD return to productive and engaging lives, and remain on active duty, she said.
“We will not leave anyone behind,” Horoho vowed.
Navy Surgeon General Vice Adm. Matthew Nathan said it “takes a village” to conquer PTSD -- and it begins with awareness across the military, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the private sector.
Nathan, who also is the chief of the Navy’s Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, said he is encouraged by the embedded teams of mental health care providers who treat service members, and that service members know what to look for in their battle buddies for signs of PTSD.
Air Force Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Charles Green noted that the good news is that there is recovery from PTSD, and veterans have access to the very best evidence-based care in both the Defense Department and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
“The hard part is choosing to share your experience, and choosing to recover from something you might not recognize, Green said, noting that more than 75 percent of service members treated for PTSD are returned to active duty.
“My message to you this morning is simple: seek the help you need ... just do it,” Green said.