Leftist media (again) misrepresents PTSD in vets

Sad soldierThere are so many things about the drive-by mainstream media that irritate me that it’s sometimes hard to prioritize or quantify them.  I can, however, say with alacrity that one of the irritants at the top of my list is the media’s 40+ year-long effort to demonize America’s vets, whom they paint as ticking time-bombs in constant, imminent danger of exploding.

Entirely expectedly, then, that was how the media treated Specialist Ivan Lopez, the man who went on the latest shooting rampage on unarmed troops at Fort Hood (where they had to call 911 to rescue them).  “PTSD!” the media shrilled.  It turned out, of course, that Lopez wasn’t a combat vet at all.  Still, as far as the media is concerned, just being in the military itself is a trauma so great that the media can reasonably claim that every active duty military member and every veteran in America is a potential PTSD explosion waiting to happen.

I’ve never bought that.  My parents and all their friends were survivors of at least one war and often two.  All experienced WWII (either as troops, refugees, or prisoners of war), and most of them experienced a second war as well:  the Israeli War of Independence, the Soviet takeover of Hungary, the Communist takeover in China, etc.  Peculiarly enough, all of them, without exception, went on to live productive, non-violent lives.

Were these members of the Greatest Generation always the happiest people in the world?  Well, yes, actually — mostly they were quite happy.  The only person I met who was a bundle of misery was a man who had escaped from Auschwitz (something extraordinary) by somehow hiding himself in a pile of corpses that, for reasons unclear to me (I was only 9 or 10 when I met him) were being shipped out of the camp.  Another Auschwitz survivor I knew, though, was one of the most vital, vibrant people I’ve every met.

All of the WWII survivors in whose shadow I was raised had dark memories and dark moments, but they all still lived with a certain triumphalism.  They had survived and were damned proud of that fact, even as many mourned their lost family and their lost friends, and all mourned the lost years of their youth.  The Jewish ones also thumbed their noses at Hitler with every child, grandchild, niece, and nephew that they had.  They understood that life was to be cherished, not wasted.

That’s why it never, ever, never, absolutely never ever, made sense to me that America’s Vietnam troops all came back as crazed, schizophrenic, psychopathic killers or dysfunctional bums.  Why were they so much more vulnerable to war’s horrors than their parents’ generation?  Even the excuses offered — lack of support at home or drug use in Vietnam — didn’t make much sense, especially the drug part.

If drugs were the problem, why didn’t every UC Berkeley graduate from 1964 to the present day turn into a crazed killer or drugged-out homeless person?  Indeed, I suspect that, if you did a study, you’d find more drugged-out homeless people in the Berkeley graduate cohort than in the American troops cohort.  As for rejection by the folks at home, sure that’s demoralizing, but is that really enough to turn you into a mass murderer or dysfunctional bum?

A few years ago, the media, which in the 21st century had opted for the “we love our troops” trope, rather than the dated “we hate our troops” trope, announced that George Bush’s military was driving America’s troops and veterans to mass suicide.  I addressed that canard in 2008 (the last year of the Bush presidency).  Gateway Pundit also pointed out that the military suicide rate was higher under Clinton’s stint as Command In Chief than it was under George Bush’s.

Just last year, HuffPo again said troops are killing themselves like suicidal flies and the New York Times assured its readers that the high rates weren’t just because the military is made up of young men who are the most likely segment in any population to commit suicide.  I’ll just note that, as before, even if one accepts solely for the sake of argument the claim that military suicides exceed those in the generally population, these increased suicide rates occurred under a Democrat Commander In Chief, not a Republican one….

Suicide is a difficult argument for the media to make for three reasons.  First, as many have argued and the Times has tried to refute, it’s a sad truth that suicides happen a lot in a population such as the military (lots of young men, especially young men far from home).  Second, it’s entirely possible to argue that the suicides aren’t the result of the horrors of combat, which humans are programmed to weather, but because the military is being downsized, troops are being made irrelevant, and the Obama economy means that they have no future in the civilian world.  The media doesn’t want to go there.  Third, while suicides are tragic, they’re not dramatic. Most are lonely affairs that affect only the actor’s immediate friends and family.

How much more exciting, then, to revive the moribund “crazed Vietnam vet” myth, this one with the neatly clinical label of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). We’re right back to the old ticking time bomb, with every vet a mass murderer in the making. Except, as with all of the media’s anti-military narratives, this one isn’t true either:

This generalization — that the millions of veterans of Iraq or Afghanistan are about to snap — plays to a stereotype of veterans being forever broken by war, when the truth is that the vast majority are not afflicted with PTSD.

But even more unfortunate is the perception that veterans are a group people should fear. Indeed, it has become common to mention military service or combat experience of a wrongdoer as if it’s some predictor of crime.

[Snip. Go to the article to see examples of the anti-military canards the media lobs at vets.]

This is a shameful misrepresentation, and it only serves as a stigma to prevent veterans with legitimate mental health issues from seeking the care they need.

“Post-traumatic stress is a manageable condition and a natural response to trauma,” writes Army veteran Alex Horton. “One that can affect a soldier in war as much as a grandmother in a car crash.”

Life is stressful.  Life has always been stressful.  It was stressful for our prehistoric ancestors duking it out with savage beasts and Neanderthal competitors.  It was stressful people in pre-modern eras when disease, famine, and war were ordinary, not exceptional.  It’s stressful for the lawyer who loses a case in court, the surgeon whose patient dies on the table, and the check-out clerk who has to play beat the clock every day or lose her job.

If humans couldn’t process stress, even extreme stress, they would have died out a long time ago.  Different individuals may suffer more from stress, or certain events may be extraordinarily stressful, but that doesn’t turn every traumatized person into an Al Qaeda bomber.  Indeed, the real mass murderers — the Al Qaeda members, the Al Shabaab people (in Kenya), the Nazis, the Soviets in the Ukraine — were and are as often as not products of ordinary lives, not traumatized lives.  They don’t have PTSD themselves; they create it in others.

 

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  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    You don’t realize that the Left caused most of the PTSD to begin with?
     
     

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    Btw, PTSD may have stress in its name but the primary cause is guilt, not stress.

  • lee

    1) I read somewhere that the crazed Vietnam vet was a fiction. Sure, there might have been dome, but statistically speaking, you’re gonna get dome in a large enough group. There were men who were given thebotion of enlistment or jail, so there was a certain number of probably not the most desirable men among the troops. But the stopped doing that in the 70’s after the Vietnam War. I wish I could recall the source, but I do remember it was something that should be trustworthy.
     
    2) After I read about the NYT weeping over the suicide epidemic, I looked up stats. I looked up the suicide stats from the CDC, and for stats for thr military. From what I could tell, it was slightly higher for the military, but it was hard to really gauge. The way numbers are presented gives you a kind apples and oranges comparison. But the NYT and friends argue that a lot of the accidental, and even some of the combat deaths were really “suicides.” Of course, these are people on the left–friends of the euthanasia crowd. The people who think if you’re eighty and inform you should WANT to die.
     
    3) I recently read that PTSD is waaaaaaay more common  than one would think, and not just for veterans of combat. And it is also waaaaaay more treatable than most imagine. Of, course with anything, there are outliers–people deeply, profoundly, massively troubled by a truly horrible trauma. 
     
    4) The sweetest, kindest man I knew many years ago was a survivor of Auschwitz. I learned several years later from someone else a little more about his experience. He had been a scrawny kid, and was almost always in danger of being “selected.” When ever I read about someone who chose a life of crime because of their terrible childhood, I think, “I don’t anyone had a worse one than this man… And he’s so nice and generous.”
     

  • JKB

    I remember reading there is some indication that it might be the current psych fad of wallowing in your experience that facilitates PTSD.  Doesn’t cause it but amplifies it because it encourages people not to move on.
     
     

    • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

      The Left had people like Hasan treating Vietnam vets back home for PTSD. They kept calling them baby killers. Result= guess what

  • Ron19

    Answers.com > Wiki Answers > Categories > Health > Public Health and Safety > Suicide Warning Signs, Statistics, and Prevention > Which profession has the highest suicide rate?
     
    Which profession has the highest suicide rate?

    Answer:

    elderly white males
     
     dentists, white male physicians, and third are veterinarians. Easy access to drugs, high stress job.’Acceptance of euthanasia’ cannot be considered a factor. Dentistry is considered the highest as most of their time is spent staring into someone’s mouth, with little else to do in their job. Despite earning a lot of money, this cannot make up for the little job satisfaction available.

     Answer two:
     

     “health care professions in general show a higher than average suicide rate. This is especially true of those in emergency services, EMTs and paramedics who respond to crisis calls.” per an Associated Content article by Michelle L Devon

  • jj

    You know, you make an interesting point there, regarding the WW2 generation.  I’m no pollyanna, and God knows there was a fair amount of less-than-stellar American soldiering, particularly in Europe.  And no question, there were those who never got it organized post-war back in the world, but I know about that anecdotally, not from experience.  I knew a lot of people who were involved, as everybody my age does/did, (it’s rapidly becoming past tense), and they were, almost to a man, grand enjoyers of life.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    WWII had a lot of non trigger pullers that were supposed to be shooting. They were also put on the front lines and removed as a whole unit.
     
    In Vietnam, the trigger pulling went up but people weren’t connected to units, so they had little reason to bond with their team. When the veterans came back, Vietnam vets came back in units of 1 and 2s, easy prey for spitters and Leftists. In WWII, they came back as a unit.
     
    WWII felt no particular guilt about Japan or Germany. That wasn’t in the news. Vietnam was advertised as a war people should have felt guilty about.

  • Spartacus

    Haven’t read it, but gathering dust on my reading list since its publication in ’98 is Stolen Valor : How the Vietnam Generation Was Robbed of Its Heroes and Its History by B.G. Burkett.  Looking it up just now, I noticed that the blurb on Amazon describes it as a book about the fakers who have built careers based on their (fabricated) service in Vietnam.  But what I remember reading about it when it first came out was that Burkett, a Vietnam vet himself, got fed up with the PTSD stereotype, and was the first one to debunk it with a small mountain of research, proving that as an aggregate group, Vietnam vets are better educated, make more money, and are generally better adjusted and less crazy than the population as a whole.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    Almost any military generation has better stats than the general population, if only because America has never suffered extreme civilian casualties while war makes for a pretty hard reality test. Certainly when compared to the communist 60s and the New Left in the 70s.
     
    While the Left’s engineered destruction of two countries, Vietnam and America, can be called stolen valour, the damage still existed.

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  • Hey Blinkin

    USMC veteran here.  For that matter, I’m in the highest group for suicide risk you could be.  I want to share some observations:
     
    Beyond the demonization of veterans, there is something about the diagnosis of PTSD that troubles me greatly.  The disorder is real, to be sure; I agree that the prognosis is better than the media leads us to believe.  The amazing thing to me is the explosion of the diagnosis itself.  
     
    As a modern veteran, let me inform you: the military doctors as well as VA doctors hand out the PTSD diagnosis as if it were candy–candy that is usually accompanied by a hefty disability check.  When I was going through TAPS, the transition classes they give you before you leave active service, a fellow from the DAV informed us that there were many, many people who had successfully gotten 100% disability ratings (almost $3000 a month) for claims of PTSD from sexual assault.  
     
    Most troublesome was the fact that these diagnoses and subsequent awards were made even if there was no record of the original assault.  In other words, it is trivial for a female veteran (or male, I suppose) to get out of the military, claim they were raped years earlier, and receive a substantial tax-free government check until their dying day.  
     
    I do not believe it is unreasonable to ask for proof of trauma before paying people thousands of dollars a month for life.  
     
    It is likely that those with the authority to do so would rather overdiagnose this disorder than underdiagnose it.  I believe they feel pressure to do so; they may believe it is safer to overdiagnose than underdiagnose.  
     
    Still, as long as veterans see an easy check, and there is no need of proof, the frequency of this diagnosis will continue to escalate.  I believe this is as much of a problem, if not more so, than the demonization of troops in the first place.  Statistically, it would exacerbate the problem.