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Cafe Society to discuss Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD)

By Staff | Oct 14, 2016

The next Cafe Society’s session on Oct. 18 will focus on PTSD; a term frequently used in public and private conversations but all-to-often, not well understood. Like it or not, it impacts our society in many different ways including presenting a significant burden for our medical systems and an inordinate drain on public funds often with marginal results. Statistical research indicates that approximately 24 million Americans, or 8 percent of our population have PTSD at any given time, and it is twice as likely to occur in women, as in men. The estimated cost is in the range of $42 billion which is frequently attributed to misdiagnosis and under treatment. The money goes for psychiatric and non-psychiatric medical treatment, indirect workplace costs, mortality costs and prescription drugs. Overwhelming as this statistics are, they don’t even begin to fully reflect the tragic consequences the malady may have for individual sufferers or their families.

Cafe Society discussions are held from 8:30 to 10 a.m. each Tuesday morning in the Rumsey Room of the Shepherd University Student Center. They are an integral part of the SU Life Long Learning Program. There are no fees or registration requirements. They are intended to facilitate a dialog on current issues between the students and older members of the community.

Facilitator, Mike Austin said, “For many years we have read or heard mention of individuals, usually military personnel suffering from ‘shell shock’ or ‘combat fatigue’ and frequently it was cast in the negative light of malingering or acts of cowardice to avoid combat. But the profound growth in experience gained through our engagements in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan provide compelling evidence that it is a major dilemma that we still haven’t adequately addressed. And we now recognize the fact that it is not a phenomenon that exclusively affects military personnel, but is destroying the lives of civilians, women as well as men, and young people as well. Simply stated, PTSD the current term that has evolved since 1980 — is a disorder that some people, more than we realized, develop when they are exposed to shocking, scary, or dangerous events. It may not necessarily be something they have experienced personally, but the unexpected loss of a loved one, and may only be manifest months or years after the incident. As you can imagine, PTSD may be very difficult to diagnose.

“The symptoms must last more than a month and severe enough to interfere with normal relationships in the family or community and ability to work. And only someone qualified to deal with mental illnesses, such as a psychiatrist or psychologist can make an appropriate diagnosis that will result in treatment. Results are uneven and full recovery seldom achieved since it is a neurological disorder or behavioral problem that is nearly impossible to completely resolve.”

Austin added, “Frequently PTSD is also associated with other dysfunctional problems that compound treatment or prevent rehabilitation including alcoholism, drug abuse and other debilitating habits that exacerbate the situation. There Cafe is evidence that some individuals are genetically more prone to PTSD or related vulnerabilities than others. There is no doubt that a healthy family life and sense of security within the individual’s social network and among his or her peers makes a huge difference. But the different degree of resilience from one individual to another is hard to fathom. Some 830,000 Vietnam veterans reportedly suffered from PTSD, 15 percent of the men, and 8.5 percent of the women and yet they all received the same thorough U.S. military preparation and training before deployment and many shared in similar highly traumatic combat experiences. More recently 20 percent of our veterans returning from Iraq suffered from PTSD, so we are losing ground. Some of that may be due to the extreme difficulties we are having in dealing with terrorism where there are few safe zones and personnel are always at risk.

“And certainly the frequency of re-deployments and unpredicted tour extensions aren’t helping. At least in the military there are dedicated professionals trying to deal with the problem. The situation is more challenging for civilians where individuals get little help unless they have a strong family and supportive community.”