Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Saturday

April 6, 2013

Ex-Army nurse researches PTSD treatment

TRAVERSE CITY — Retired Lt. Col. Linda Fletcher, a 22-year veteran of the Army Nurse Corps, thinks it’s time to ask different questions about post-traumatic stress disorder that afflicts many returning veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

What if the medical diagnostic definition of PTSD is not comprehensive enough?

What if, as a result, current treatments that have been used since World War II have limited success?

Fletcher,a 22-year veteran of the Army Nurse Corps, now lives in Long Lake Township. She has spent the last six years researching PTSD and treatments on her own.

She will teach a two-session Northwestern Michigan College extended education class later this month.

PTSD is a mental health condition triggered by a terrifying and/or tragic event — war, combat, catastrophe and abuse of all kinds. Symptoms include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety and uncontrollable thoughts about the event. Timely diagnosis and effective treatment have become a major national concern. Statistics tell why.

A U.S. military veteran commits suicide every 65 minutes, on average, according to the most recent Department of Veterans Affairs study. About 22 veterans committed suicide each day in 2010.

Nearly 30 percent of the veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have PTSD and 50 percent of those with PTSD do not seek treatment.

Female veterans are particularly likely to suffer from mental health issues. According to the VA, about one in five female veterans have post-traumatic stress related to "military sexual trauma," a catch-all category that includes everything from sexual harassment to rape.

Fletcher said she is concerned about the long-term effect PTSD will have on the vets, their families and American society.

“What we are doing doesn’t work,” she said. “ We’re still treating people from World War II and Vietnam. It’s incredibly expensive and there is a lot of collateral damage — drug and alcohol abuse, inability to hold a job, homelessness, suicide, fractured homes. All of this drains on the resources of society. It’s a huge problem and it’s just getting bigger.”

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