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JUNE IS PTSD MONTH 06/16/2012

Posted by landfallprods in Landfall Productions, Inc..
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Some folks may be curious why a filmmaker would choose to make a narrative feature film (“Purple Mind“) about something as dark and depressing as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Well, seeing that June is PTSD Month, I thought I’d offer a few examples from all over about this disturbing subject.

The Raleigh Health and Happiness Examiner says, “It’s interesting how hardly anyone had heard of this disorder until our recent military involvement over the last 10 years. Yet many people have suffered from this malady since the beginning of time.”

What’s encouraging is that people are beginning to talk about PTSD, and that’s the reason we made “Purple Mind,” to encourage people to talk with their friends about the experiences which contributed to their PTSD or the PTSD of a family member or friend.  It’s a discussion that’s not restricted to the military.  Rape victims, survivors of domestic violence and natural disasters all suffer from PTSD.  A tornado which destroys you home leaves more than physical damage.  Imagine the emotional wreckage of something like a twister disintegrating your home.

Anyone who has witnessed a murder or other violent acts probably has suffered from PTSD. Memories can be etched so deeply that they make a person begin to doubt their own sanity.  The mental images do fade, but it takes time.

The Boston Globe wrote,   “Like many Holocaust survivors, Sonia Reich was not offered therapy after the war, and she never talked about her experiences. She spent five decades as an active suburban mother and wife. But as Sonia entered her 60s, after her husband died, her children began to notice some odd survivalist behavior, such as sleeping with an ax under her pillow and bringing her own water to restaurants. ‘But we did not connect those behaviors with what she went through as a child in the Holocaust,’ Howard Reich said.”

Psych Central says that “If you’re planning on joining the Army, you’re more likely to die of suicide than Combat.”  Even the U.S. Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta said on Wednesday that there are “still huge gaps” in the way mental disorders are diagnosed within the military.  With over 150 active military suicides so far in 2012, if you’re in the U.S. military, you’re more likely to die by your own hand than are to die in combat.

Dragged before Congress to discuss the military’s budget, Panetta made his comments in response to questioning by Senator Patty Murray, who chairs the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.  In Murray’s home state of Washington, over 100 soldiers have had their post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnoses reversed — denying them benefits and access to mental health care at the VA.  “You can’t imagine what it’s like to talk to a soldier who was told he had PTSD,” said Murray. “His family was working with him, and then when he went to the disability evaluation system, he was told he was a liar or malingerer. He was taken out of it and he went out in the civilian world not being treated. That’s a horrendous offense.”

One of the problems with the V.A. is that each V.A. hospital is run independently from the others.  While vets may get great care at one hospital,  the same treatment may not be available at another.  Some hospitals follow different evaluation criteria, so treatment becomes inconsistent.   This leads to vets questioning the system, and rightly so.

It’s not much different in Canada.  The Ottowa Citizen says, “It has been painfully obvious that the military and government were never prepared for or aware of the multitude of ongoing realities associated with PTSD.  The provision of medical and professional support for our veterans has been plagued by the continuous turnover of medical and professional support personnel, the engagement of personnel who lack knowledge and experience in treating PTSD, and a government infatuated with cutbacks thus forging a support system that is sporadic at best and, in many respects, simply non-existent.”

The problems aren’t limited to North America.  Even in Pakistan PTSD has become an important public health concern.  So much so that the Department of Psychiatry of the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences recently published research which indicates that, of a study of 500 participants, one hundred (20%) participants who lived in households in Islamabad, suffered PTSD brought on solely from watching traumatic events on television.   The reported high rate of PTSD symptoms by TV viewers suggests that PTSD is an important public health concern transcending nation, race and religion.

The media in Pakistan extensively and repeatedly cover terror and counter terror violence without considering the impact on viewers, which raises the question, how much coverage should be considered in the public interest before becoming a threat to public health.  The obvious first choice, it would seem, would not be to censor the news but to find a non-violent solutions to terror itself.

According to Hamid Shalizi in Reuters,  “Afghanistan’s National Directorate Security, long reviled for abuse and torture of detainees, says it is now trying to draw the poison out of young Taliban minds by teaching them the Koran, taking the men to mosques in Kabul to show people praying peacefully and proving their instigators were wrong. “   Suicide attacks, unknown in Afghanistan before 2004, account for the highest number of deaths after roadside bombings and are a huge source of concern to the government forces which will take over security operations ahead of the withdrawal of combat troops in 2014.

Equally confounding and worrisome, the U.S. Congress recently voted to block abortion access for raped soldiers (Mother Jones, June 13, 2012.) and in an overwhelmingly bipartisan 401-11 vote passed House Resolution 568 urging the President to oppose any policy toward Iran “that would rely on containment as a option to the Iranian nuclear threat.”  In other words, Republicans and Democrats alike have told the President than nothing short of war or the threat of war is an acceptable policy.  What do peace loving Americans have to do to heal and find ways to coexist?

There are a few hopeful signs.  At Fort Carson, Colorado, the grandson of General George S. Patton (“old blood & guts”) is trying to help soldiers cope with PTSD by getting them to tell their stories through a movie. Patton’s pilot project encourages soldiers to take control of their own stories in a filmmaking class titled, “I Was There Media Workshop.”  I would like to think that the project is somehow the result of my sending our film, “Purple Mind” to the Pentagon a year ago, but since there’s been no confirmation, it’s just another dream up in the clouds.

But those clouds are becoming populated, not only by our film, but with all kinds of folks with PTSD who want others to know they’re not alone.  “Project AboutFace” presents forty U.S. veterans from all eras who speak on-line about how PTSD has affected them and their loved ones and the steps they took to get their lives back.  So whether you see yourself in these stories or your husband or a grandmother who survived the Holocaust and sleeps with an ax under her pillow, we’re all hopeful you’ll see that the cure for PTSD lies not only in getting proper treatment, but in an evolution of human behavior that celebrates what we share in common over differences in color, race and religion.

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