Saturday, August 9, 2014

Words can hurt or heal PTSD

I love the "did you know" Geico commercials but my favorite is "Did you know words can hurt" commercial with a cowboy saying, "I'm a loner" as he rides off into The End.
There are words that can actually hurt. Sadly, the words troops heard and veterans hang onto came from the military leaders telling them they could train their brains to be mentally tough. While the words may seem as if they are helpful, they are more harmful than anything else they could ever say.

"The U.S. Army's Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program is a preventive program that seeks to enhance psychological resilience among all members of the Army community. It helps those who are psychologically healthy face life's adversities, including the stressors of combat and prolonged separation from family."
This sounds harmless, Building spiritual fitness in the Army: An innovative approach to a vital aspect of human development.
This article describes the development of the spiritual fitness component of the Army's Comprehensive Soldier Fitness (CSF) program. Spirituality is defined in the human sense as the journey people take to discover and realize their essential selves and higher order aspirations. Several theoretically and empirically based reasons are articulated for why spirituality is a necessary component of the CSF program: Human spirituality is a significant motivating force, spirituality is a vital resource for human development, and spirituality is a source of struggle that can lead to growth or decline. A conceptual model developed by Sweeney, Hannah, and Snider (2007) is used to identify several psychological structures and processes that facilitate the development of the human spirit. From this model, an educational, computer-based program has been developed to promote spiritual resilience. This program consists of three tiers: (a) building awareness of the self and the human spirit, (b) building awareness of resources to cultivate the human spirit, and (c) building awareness of the human spirit of others. Further research will be needed to evaluate the effectiveness of this innovative and potentially important program.

It sounds harmless until you actually talk to veterans after they have had this training. Their spiritual burdens are causing them more harm than they should ever have to endure. They have no idea how to forgive themselves or others any more than they have a clue about how to see themselves. When their minds are focused on who they lost, what they did and didn't do, what they saw, they are unable to see what is really there and has been there all the time. The simple fact that they joined to save lives. Not to take them.

They could be trained to push their bodies beyond what humans should be able to do. Push their minds to be on alert even in their sleep. Push their courage over and over again. They can also push them into believing they were mentally weak and ended up with PTSD because they didn't train right. After all, the military gave them a weapon and was told it would work. When it didn't too many died because they believed the military wouldn't give them something that would endanger their lives.

Take a good look at the latest news release on military suicides being up again this year.
A current incidence rate was not included in the 2014 year-to-date suicide report. The figure is challenging to calculate, since it is based on the number of troops on active duty as well as the number of mobilized Guard and reserve troops — numbers that fluctuate as service members train and move between active and reserve status.

Of the 162 confirmed or suspected suicides to date this year for both the active and reserve components, the service breakdown is Army, 71; Air Force, 34; Marine Corps, 21; and Navy, 36.

This time last year, the figures were Army, 85; Air Force, 25; Marine Corps, 26; and Navy, 24.

The Navy is well ahead of its pace at this time last year and in fact is already closing in on its total of 43 for all of 2013.

This is after the DOD came out with CSF way back in 2009. These numbers are only part of the story of how these words did more harm than good because OEF and OIF veterans had this same training. What we see is the suicides went up, attempted suicides went up and veterans facing off with police and SWAT Teams from coast to coast.

The other part of the story is there are less serving this year than in 2012 and less serving in 2012 than in 2009.

This all came after the worst message was delivered. It wasn't the experiences of combat causing PTSD but "personality disorders" causing the suffering and it was being delivered in 2007.
The new diagnostic label sends the message: This suffering is your fault, not a result of the war. On one level, it's hard not to see this as another example of the government falling short on its care for Iraq war veterans. Yet there's another, more insidious, bit of sophistry at work. The implication is that a healthy person would be resistant to the psychological pressures of war. Someone who succumbs to the flashbacks, panic, and anger that haunt many former soldiers must have something inherently wrong with him. It's the psychological side of warrior macho: If you're tough, you can take it. Of course, we know this is not true. Wars forever change the lives of those who fight them and can leave deep scars.
Another important development would be a cultural shift within the military that both recognizes and destigmatizes the need for psychiatric care. This way soldiers and veterans would not be afraid to seek help in a timely manner – or be punished for having psychological complaints.
It hasn't stopped no matter how much contrary evidence has been released and reviewed. By 2009 before CSF was pushed full force, these were the numbers they were worried about. DOD leaders seek clues to Army suicides
The Army, which has borne the brunt of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, announced seven confirmed suicides in January, and as many as 24 soldiers may have killed themselves. The Army also reported a 25 percent increase in suicides in 2008 over the previous year. Last year was the fourth consecutive year that the number of Army suicides rose.

Why would the government spend billions a year on military suicides and PTSD if it was more about "personality disorders" than PTSD? They wouldn't. Why would the military claim that most of the suicides happened with no link to deployments? They can't admit that their own efforts have produced devastation. In the process, they end up pointing to their own mental health screenings failing to catch psychological issues before they allow recruits to join. In other words, when those not deployed took part in "resilience" training still ended up committing suicide, the DOD expected it to work on those deployed multiple times? Ok, but this made sense to them.

It made so much sense that the DOD and VA have been spending billions every year on this.

How did they expect words to heal PTSD when they were delivering the other side of the message that in the end, the hard landing just didn't matter?

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