Setting the record straight: PTSD and veterans

The Mental Health and Wellness Center at the Battle Creek VA Medical Center. (Feb. 26, 2015)


BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (WOOD) — Earlier this week, a Texas jury found the veteran accused of killing “American Sniper” Chris Kyle guilty for the killing earlier this week.

Post-traumatic stress disorder was part of Eddie Ray Routh’s defense. But what message did that defense send to the public?

Efforts to help people with mental health issues are often fought on two fronts. Treatments help cure or control the problems. There are also efforts to battle the stigma.

The Mental Health and Wellness Center at the Battle Creek VA Medical Center is one example. Opened just last spring, the $8 million facility’s bright entrance way could be the entrance to a heart or cancer center. It’s part of the veterans’ administration’s effort to show mental health should be viewed the same way as other conditions.

“No different than somebody who lives with diabetes. They might go to an endocrinologist,” Dr. Jay Cohen, Ph.D., the associate chief of staff for mental health at the center, said.

The center, along with clinics throughout West Michigan, served about 12,000 veterans for mental health issues last year. Many show symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

While the trial of Eddie Ray Routh for the murder of “American Sniper” Chris Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield brought added awareness to the issue of PTSD, there’s concern among some it promotes a stigma that’s simply not true and may cause others to avoid treatment.

“The vast majority of people with mental health conditions — PTSD or any mental health condition — have never been violent, are not violent, will never be violent,” Dr. Cohen said.

Another misconceptions involving PTSD and the military is that veterans make up a vast majority of people with PTSD.

Dr. Cohen says it’s true that more veterans are exposed to the kind of trauma that can trigger PTSD.

“But the likelihood of a veteran developing PTSD from that trauma-related exposure’s not necessarily greater than those who have not served in the military who might have trauma-related exposures in their personal lives,” Dr. Cohen said.

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TO GET HELP:

Veterans Crisis Line or call 1.800.273.8255 (Press 1)

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs on PTSD

 

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