MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- The effects of the war in Iraq and Global War on Terrorism have real costs and these costs are not only dollars and cents — they’re in our service members, their friends and families.
“There are extensive programs for active-duty service members returning from deployments,” said Langenfeld. “We understand there is a fear of treatment because of what people you work with may think of you, but this help will allow you to come back to work and be successful. No one is going to admonish you for seeking help.”
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder is an anxiety disorder that can occur following the experience or witnessing of a traumatic event. Most survivors of trauma return to normal after a little time. However, some people will have stress reactions that do not go away on their own, or may even get worse over time; these individuals may develop PTSD, according to the National Center for PTSD.
“Everyone in a combat situation will have some kind of stress to take back home and usually the stress subsides, but PTSD is a real, lasting disorder, which needs to be treated by a professional,” said Sandra Bragg, supervisor social worker of the Marine Corps Community Services Community Counseling Center here.
The symptoms for PTSD can be broken down into three different categories; behavioral reactions, physical reactions and emotional reactions, according to the National Center for PTSD.
Behavioral reactions such as inhibited concentration, jumpiness, bad dreams, flashbacks or nightmares, avoidance of people or places related to the trauma, work or school problems and loss of intimacy or feelings of withdrawal, detachment and disconnection.
Physical reactions can show up as sleeplessness, fatigue, upset stomach, loss of appetite, headaches and sweating when thinking of combat, lack of exercise, poor diet, rapid heartbeat or breathing, alcohol and tobacco abuse, or drug use and other health problems becoming worse.
Emotional reactions can be more serious, like feeling nervous, helpless, fearful, sad, guilty, rejected, abandoned, edginess, easily upset or annoyed, experiencing shock, being numb, unable to feel happy, feeling hopeless about the future, irritable or angry and not trusting others, being over controlling and having lots of conflicts.
Seeking help isn’t an immediate trip out of the military, said Langenfeld. Treatments have been very successful at the hospital and there are support systems throughout the base.
There are choices for service members, but a lot of them depend on what unit the person falls under and whether that person recently returned from a deployment or what level of care a person may require, which will determine which organization will provide assistance, he said.
Active-duty service members aboard Camp Lejeune can come directly to the Naval Hospital here to receive treatment and can be placed in the hospitals new program ‘Back on Track,’ said Langenfeld.
The intensive outpatient program, groups 15 people, who meet every day for two weeks, he said. People in the program speak with others suffering and receive the guidance of a trained professional.
“We have people in the group from Vietnam, the Gulf war and Iraq and even though they’re all from different wars their symptoms are all the same, but when guided by a professional there is a great success rate for recovery for all of them,” he said.
Troops heading, during and returning from deployment receive a large amount of PTSD support from the hospital and other groups, said Langsfeld.
Prior to a deployment the hospital performs a pre-deployment brief to go over the effects of combat and how to cope with time away from home and combat stress, explains Langsfeld.
This support does not end on the mainside, Marines also receive mid-deployment briefs by doctors traveling with the unit. These briefs are an opportunity for the doctors to provide resources for personnel experiencing stress that they cannot cope with, he said.
Upon return from a deployment, Marines and sailors are offered the Post-Deployment Health Reassessment Program, which is a new program mandated by the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs and designed to identify and address health concerns, with specific emphasis on mental health, that have emerged over time since deployment, according to the Department of Defense Deployment Health Clinical Center.
The PDHRA Program uses DD Form 2900 to document health concerns, assessment and referrals. After service members have completed the form, a healthcare provider will discuss with the service member any health concerns, which they have indicated on the form, and will make referrals to appropriate healthcare or community-based services if further evaluation or treatment is needed, according to the center.
Once completed DD 2900 will be printed and placed in the individual’s permanent medical record allowing the service member to create a lasting record for reference by future heath care providers.
Although documentation is important, Marines from 2nd Marine Division, who are returning from deployment, need to speak to people, said Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Christopher Armwood, corpsman for 2nd Marine Division Psychological.
Second Marine Division Psychological screens and provides counseling service as well as regular psychological care using trained professionals, explains Armwood
“We exclusively take care of Marines who are part of 2nd Marine Division, but there are many resources on base, which people can take advantage of,” said Armwood.
Some people suffering from PTSD can be afraid to visit a hospital or a psychological department, so a chaplain can be a good option, explains Navy Cmdr. Telleen Brad, 10th Marine Regimental chaplain and 2nd Marine Division remain behind leadership chaplain.
“I see the chaplains as the first line of defense,” said Brad “Every Marine or sailor who deploys to Iraq there is a chaplain there with them, living in the same conditions and dealing with the same problems they deal with, so we can understand what they are going through on a personal level.”
The chaplain’s office is a non-threatening place for people to come, and what is said behind the door stays behind the door, said Brad.
Another option for service members on base is the Marine Corps Community Services Community Counseling Center, at 451-2864, which offers programs to assist service members and their families in a safe and confidential environment, said Bragg.
For an even more discrete evaluation, referral, and treatment programs, Military OneSource, at 1-800-342-9647 or at militaryonesource.com, offers a free 24-hour service, provided by the Department of Defense, to all active duty, National Guard, and reserve members and their families, according to their Web site.
Services include consultation online or by telephone, with referral for up to six free face-to-face counseling sessions, on issues including combat stress, reunion and reintegration, and family relationships, with a professional in your community.
“It’s important to know that there are a lot of resources available to you and you’re not alone,” concluded Langsfeld.
Resources available for PTSD:
Aboard Camp Lejeune
Naval Hospital mental health self-referrals 450-4700
2nd Marine Division Psychiatry 450-8598
2nd Marine Division Chaplains 450-8608
Community Counseling Center 451-2864 / 2876
War Zone Stress Workshop 451-2864
Beyond the Brief, a six-week workshop from stress, PTSD to the home coming presented by the Marine Corps Family Team Building 451-0176
National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder 802-296-6300 or http://www.ncptsd.org/
Military OneSource militaryonesource.com or 800-342-9647