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Study: Most troops don’t seek military help with PTSD

Many soldiers ignore symptoms

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 8, 2012

More than 60 percent of troops who believe they have post-traumatic stress disorder are not seeking treatment through the military, according to spouses surveyed in a report due for release Wednesday.

The nonprofit Blue Star Families found that only 35 percent of service members displaying symptoms of PTSD sought military medical treatment. Others sought civilian treatment or ignored their symptoms.

The group provided The Washington Times with a copy of the report Tuesday.

In the survey, military spouses said their husbands or wives offered different reasons for not seeking military treatment for PTSD or brain injuries.

"Command didn't think he needed it and didn't make time available for help," one spouse said.

One wife added, "My husband did not want to be labeled or somehow 'excused' from the military after 16 years of service with no retirement."

Vivian Greentree, director of research and policy for Blue Star Families, said the results point to a persistent stigma within the military.

"We have a lot more work to do regarding the stigma of seeking help, and that's something that has to come from every level of leadership," said Ms. Greentree, who is a military spouse, mother and Navy veteran.

One military wife, Brannan Pedersen Vines, said she saw obvious personality changes in her husband after deployments in Iraq in 2003 and 2005, but he rarely talked about his condition. He was finally diagnosed with PTSD.

"There's a certain pride there, that, 'I should be able to do my job without having those issues,' " said Mrs. Vines, the founder and CEO of the nonprofit Family of a Vet, dedicated to helping veterans with PTSD and brain injuries.

The report also said multiple deployments have led to significant emotional, behavioral, social and psychological problems with military children. The report cited a RAND study that said military children with a deployed parent showed a 19 percent increase in behavioral disorders.

"Kids have grown up with moms and dads that have missed half of their lives," said Mrs. Vines, whose child was born during her husband's second deployment.

Only 50 percent of spouses felt they had the resources to deal with the impact of deployments on their children, the report said. A separate report published earlier this year by the Army showed a 62 percent increase from 2008 to 2011 in military child abuse cases reported.

The Research Triangle Institute's Deborah A. Gibbs, who has conducted Army-funded studies for several years on military child abuse, said her research shows that neglect or physical, emotional and sexual assaults are three times more likely when a parent is deployed.

"Deployment is an extraordinary stress on families," Ms. Gibbs said. "Most families do remarkably well. Some families, especially those that may have been fragile to start with, may have some serious difficulties."

She said a typical situation might involve husbands or wives who suddenly find themselves as single parents, overwhelmed, depressed and responsible for all household duties while worrying about a deployed spouse.

"It could mean anything from not tending to the basic needs of the child - feeding, changing diapers, leaving an older child unsupervised," she said. "It may be she just can't get out of bed in the morning. Her nerves are frayed and she loses her temper.

"They're not horrible people. They're parents that are just pushed beyond their resources for the most part."

According to the report, the top worry among military families is pay and benefits.

Earlier this year, in response to budget cuts, the Defense Department proposed changes in salaries and health and retirement benefits that would slow pay raises over time and either impose or increase health care insurance fees.

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