Wednesday, August 03, 2005

"Back into the fight" vs "Back into civil society"

There have been a bunch of articles lately, especially in the Army Times, about actions the Army is taking to address the problem of PTSD among Soldiers. I'm a little concerned to hear the Army place so much emphasis on the role of combat-stress teams (CSTs), which are in-country teams of uniformed mental-health professionals who counsel Soldiers after critical events (e.g., firefights).

By many accounts, CSTs are very effective at getting Soldiers "back into the fight." So, it seems that CSTs address what's been called "shell shock" and "battle fatigue" in previous wars.

But, I wonder: is the treatment that gets Soldiers back to being Soldiers the same that's required to help Soldiers re-integrate as civilians? After all, PTSD isn't about not being able to get back into the fight; it's about not being able to leave the fight behind.

Recent reports indicate that symptoms of PTSD are more common in the follow-up screenings done 3-4 months after re-deployment than they are in the screenings done at redeployment. PTSD seems to be correlate positively to having time to reflect upon the things experienced in battle. What can we do for Soldiers after they have re-deployed and they begin serious reflections?

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Pete,
Last I was briefed 1AD experienced the most problems with Combat Related Stress/PTSD at about the 6-12 months back mark. It seems that the re-integration into society cycle will normally complete itself around that time.

I am not sure about the veracity of the above claim, just know what happened here.

As for the effectiveness of the CSTs. They came and gave us a brief, and I even had some Troopers talk to them. Those Troopers that were willing to talk about it said they felt better, but it was not a cure-all.

Marshall Tway

Nancy said...

Pete:
I am thankful that you are an instructor at West Point. The questions you pose here are important to the future of so many soldiers, their families and friends. I have observed a pre-deployment training program for mental health personnel and can see that this is an ongoing problem without consensus. I am at UPenn this semester writing a bioethics paper on just such a topic and the role of both the military and local civil society in re-integration support.
Nancy
nanl@sp2.upenn.edu