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Michael Phelan
Michael Phelan
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The Walking Wounded: PTSD Victims

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The term "walking wounded" has long been used to describe victims of traumatic brain injury, who may appear healthy but have permanent cognitive, psychological, and other symptoms from brain damage. The term is now being used to describe the American troops in Iraq who are returning from combat duty with post-traumatic stress disorder. These brave men and women face daily the risk of death by roadside improvised explosive devices or suicide bombers. It is not surprising that many are returning home with PTSD.

What is not know is how many of our troops are affected by PTSD. The Army conducted a survey in 2006 and concluded that 17% of soldiers and marines surveyed suffered from PTSD. A Rand study put the number at 14%. The New York Times reports today on a new mathematical model by Lawrence W. Wein, et al. which estimates that "about 35% of soldiers and marines who deploy to Iraq will ultimately suffer PTSD -about 300,000 people, with 20,000 new sufferers for each year the war lasts." This is a staggering number.

Perhaps one of the few good things to result from this tragic war will be that our government and private physicians will take more seriously this disorder, be more vigilant about diagnosing it, and help to reduce the stigma that is attached to mental health referrals for treatment. Studies show that proper PTSD care can lead to complete remission in 30-50% of cases. The above-referenced Rand study estimates that treatment would pay for iteself in two years. The very least we can do for our combat vets is to make sure that each is properly screened upon departure from combat duty for PTSD and brain injury and then properly treated.