Redeployed Troops Facing Adjustment Issues Are 'Not Crazy,' Official Says
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 27, 2005 The Defense Department's senior medical adviser said that troops redeployed from combat zones should suffer no stigma for seeking help for emotional problems.
Some troops who've returned from duty tours in Afghanistan or Iraq are experiencing symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder, Dr. William Winkenwerder Jr., assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, told Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service reporters during a break Jan. 26 at the annual Tricare Conference held here.
Winkenwerder had told conference attendees Jan. 24 that DoD is expanding its post-deployment health assessment program, which will soon require all servicemembers -- active and reserve components -- to fill out a health questionnaire and visit a care provider within three to six months after redeployment. More than 600,000 pre- and post-deployment health assessments have already been completed, he noted.
He said medical officials learned that servicemembers were exhibiting PTSD symptoms such as chronic nervousness, anger or depression months after they'd returned to their home bases after deployments to combat theaters.
"If you've been in a very stressful environment, to have symptoms like that is normal -- you're not crazy," Winkenwerder emphasized.
Yet, if PTSD symptoms aren't identified and dealt with early on, he explained, then, more significant problems could develop. Some "people could turn to alcohol or other things to try to drive away some of the uncomfortable feelings," Winkenwerder said.
Servicemembers with PTSD can be successfully treated with the proper support from the unit in conjunction with medical care and family-services assistance as needed, Winkenwerder said.
Troops who believe they may be having trouble adjusting after returning from combat-zone duty shouldn't be afraid of being stigmatized when they seek help, Winkenwerder said.
"If you've got some emotional things going on or psychological things going on, the best thing to do is to reach out and get some help," he said.