Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Fighting the War Within

A recent collaboration of CNN (Anderson Cooper) and MTV placed the veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in the spotlight. A star-studded line up, including 50 Cent and Ludacris, performed on October 24, 2008 in an event dubbed “A Night for Vets: An MTV Concert for the BRAVE.” Though hundreds of veterans attended the concert, the highly energized affair was intended to be more than just a good time. The concert was an attempt to rally support for the newly proposed Bill of Rights for American Veterans (BRAVE) , a petition organized by MTV and numerous other veterans’ organizations. The bill, though still a work in progress, includes five central points that are aimed at granting US veterans with the rights and respect they deserve. By virtually “signing” the petition, people agree that steps need to be taken to:

1. Properly treat mental health issues
2. Prevent homelessness among veterans
3. Give disabled vets the benefits they've earned
4. Fully fund our veterans' hospitals
5. Compensate troops made to serve longer

It is true that MTV is often associated with mindless teenage dribble, but the recent development of and promotion of BRAVE is commendable. Too often Americans forget to “support our troops” once the troops are safely home. It is necessary to realize that, for many veterans, the effects of war do not cease to exist once the war is over. Veterans often must deal with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), a mental disorder resulting from “terrifying events or ordeals in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened.” Symptoms of PTSD are insomnia, emotional detachment, haunting memories, and very uneasy nerves. It is not surprising, then, that a new survey conducted by the RAND Corporation reported that approximately 1 in 5 military service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan will suffer from the disorder. Nonetheless, of those diagnosed with PTSD, barely more than half have sought treatment. It is believed that the lack of funding for the US Department of Veterans Affairs, shortage of qualified psychiatrists, and the stigma associated with admitting a mental disorder hinder several veterans from seeking help.

The consequences of veterans not receiving help for PTSD are enormous. Alcoholism, failed marriages, and thoughts of suicide often result from PTSD. Though no direct correlation has been made with homelessness and PTSD, the fact that 1 in 3 adult homeless males have served their country in the Armed Services is quite convincing that there is some connection. I was very surprised and outraged to learn that there are currently more homeless Vietnam veterans than the total number of American soldiers who died in the Vietnam War.

Surely the men and women who served our country in uniform deserve more respect than to be denied proper treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Perhaps money in the defense budget needs to be reallocated to ensure that soldiers are taken care of first and foremost. More psychiatrists need to be trained to deal specifically with PTSD and other mental disorders initiated by the tragedy of war. The military should also attempt to infuse a mentality that assures soldiers that seeking help makes a person strong, not weak or crazy. Though MTV might be onto something positive, it will take a lot more than Ludacris and 50 Cent to ameliorate this dilemma.

1 comment:

OMARCOMIN! said...

We have 50 Cent & Luadcris' take. What about Ja Rule?