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Up to half-million troops from Iraq to Afghanistan have PTSD


Vast differences in care between Blacks and Whites

On Saturday, Nov. 11, America will observe Veterans Day in honor of those who served the nation in times of war and peace. They are recognized and honored for their sacrifices that ensured the protection of freedoms. 

For many veterans who served in military conflicts, however, they continue to experience nightmares or flashbacks caused by Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. Those people often relive traumatic events experienced on the battlefield, which have become seared in their memories and can negatively affect their mental health.

In one major study of 60,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, 13.5% of deployed and non-deployed veterans screened positive for PTSD, while other studies show the rate to be as high as 20% to 30%. As many as 500,000 U.S. troops who served in those wars may have been diagnosed with PTSD, according to the study.

And, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, The National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study found differences among African-American and White Vietnam theater Veterans in terms of readjustment after military service. African-American male Vietnam Veterans had higher rates of PTSD than Whites. Rates of current PTSD in the study were 21% among African-Americans, and 14% among Whites.

“PTSD affects individuals in many different ways,” said Dr. Ashley Zucker, a psychiatrist with Kaiser Permanente Southern California. “There’s one common denominator, however. Those who suffer from PTSD can experience significant challenges when it comes to handling daily activities such as work, going to school or having healthy relationships with their spouse, children, friends and loved ones. That can often lead to social withdrawal, anxiety, shame, sleep disorders, or even suicide.”

According to Dr. Zucker, doing the following may improve a person’s path to recovery from PTSD:

•  In times of anxiety, reassure and 

    comfort yourself.

•  Always attend scheduled counseling sessions 

    and doctor’s appointments.

•  Avoid alcohol, caffeine, nicotine and illegal 

    drug use, as they can raise your anxiety level 

    and cause problems with sleeping.

•  Make sure you get sufficient rest.

•  Exercise.

•  Use proven relaxation techniques.

•  Get involved in your community.


Because there are times when PTSD can cause severe anxiety and other mental health challenges, Dr. Zucker emphasized the importance of knowing when to seek help.

“If you start thinking about hurting yourself or others, then call 911,” she said. “Additionally, if your symptoms get worse, or you feel your state of mental health isn’t improving, contact your healthcare provider.”