Vets suffering from stress can find the help they need


Published: Thursday, January 4, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 3, 2007 at 11:14 p.m.
Dear Abby: Although I am not a mental health professional, I am concerned for the welfare of "Stressed in Pennsylvania" (Nov. 22), who is suffering from post- traumatic stress disorder due to his tour of duty in Iraq.
As a current commander of troops and a two-time returnee from "down range," I take caring for soldiers seriously, and I would opine that the writer's healing process has already begun. It began as soon as the soldier acknowledged he had demons he could not deal with.
Regardless of a soldier's location in the continental United States, the Veterans Administration has a steady stream of counselors available for any soldier -- past and present -- dealing with the aftermath of his experience in Iraq. In addition, depending on his location and current status (active duty, primarily), he can go to any base and seek assistance through the Community Mental Health Agency. Within that office he will find a host of professionals ready and able to assist him with the symptoms associated with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).
Soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan are witnessing and taking part in some horrific situations. Many of those incidents are unlike any war in which our forces have ever been involved. PTSD cannot be taken lightly, and many people throughout our nation do not, nor should they, understand all of the underlying implications associated with the ailment. It's a condition that should be addressed immediately, though, depending on the severity of the situation.
To the writer of that letter: Good luck, Godspeed, and thank you to all of my sisters and brothers in uniform for your service to our nation.
Concerned Medical Services Captain Dear Concerned: Thank you for your helpful letter. For any other veterans who are reading this column and are perhaps in need of assistance, I am offering a reference you can use to begin your quest for support: www.ncptsd.va.gov.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has launched this Web site for the National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, a special center within Veterans Affairs. The center is designed to advance the clinical care and social welfare of America's veterans through research, education and training in the science, diagnosis and treatment of PTSD and stress-related disorders.
The Web site is provided as an educational resource regarding PTSD and other enduring consequences of traumatic stress, for a variety of audiences, but does not replace face-to-face interaction with a clinical practitioner. If someone is in need of assistance for problems related to his or her experience in combat, he or she should seek help immediately. Read on: Dear Abby: I'm a Vietnam vet who also has post- traumatic stress. "Stressed" should go to a veterans hospital, veterans center, or contact a veterans service officer through his county. Counseling is available on a one-to-one basis or group therapy.
I take two or three vets each month to assist them in getting the services and help they need. These are veterans of all ages, branches of the service and all wars/conflicts. The best way to resolve these service- related issues is to talk with someone else who has experienced the same problems. Help is out there. "Stressed in Pennsylvania" can also look in the Yellow Pages of his phone book.
Vietnam Vet, Pittsburg, Calif.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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