Sunday, January 20, 2008

PTSD 'If you get shot in the soul ... no one can see it'

'If you get shot in the soul ... no one can see it'
By Steve Young
Comment Print Email PUBLISHED: January 20, 2008

The stress of war is no stranger in South Dakota.

It lies in the memory of a self-inflicted gunshot blast that ended Staff Sgt. Cory Brooks' despair on an April day in 2004 in Baghdad.

And it troubles a community of military and health care officials back here at home who know that one of every four suicides in this state involves a veteran - but aren't sure why.

"It is troubling," says Rick Barg, state adjutant/quartermaster for the Veterans of Foreign Wars. "If you get shot in the arm or leg and you lose that arm or leg, people can see that.

"But if you get shot in the soul, you bring it home and no one can see it."

Of 750,000 U.S. veterans who have marched off to Afghanistan and Iraq since 2003, 100,500 have come home with a mental-health condition, said Dr. Ira Katz of the Department of Veterans Affairs' Office of Mental Health.

How many of those are South Dakotans is difficult to gauge. There are only statistical bits and pieces that offer a snapshot of the overal problem. For example, the state Division of Veterans Affairs says it has helped 8,500 veterans receive monthly service-related compensation for health issues. Of those, 833 - or almost 10 percent - are receiving payments for post-traumatic stress disorder disabilities covering all wars from World War II to present.

Last July, the federal government set up a 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Hotline for veterans. From its start to the end of October, it had received 28 phone calls from South Dakota, said Janell Christenson, suicide prevention coordinator for the VA Medical Center in Sioux Falls, as well as 19 from Minnesota and three from Iowa.
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