Washington, D.C. – Research into the physical effects related to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the effects of early childhood trauma and suicide among veterans highlighted several symposia and workshops during APAs annual August convention.
Laura J. Milliken, M.S., a graduate student at the University of Houston, said the pathological effects on PTSD victims of wars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan differ to a greater extent than previously thought.
Gastrological and skeletomuscular disorders were common among Korean War PTSD victims.
Milliken said thyroid disease, arthritis, psoriasis and diabetes was common among PTSD victims from the Vietnam War, and in the latest military actions by United States troops saw poor health functions resulting from smoking and alcohol abuse as well as an increase in arthritis and digestive disorders, including ulcers.
In the area of suicide among veterans, April Krowel, M.A., a student at Ball State University, said that suicides among veterans had dropped to about 14 per 100,000 before the Mideast military actions but has grown to about 30 per 100,000 today.
The risk factors for veterans committing suicide, she said, included being divorced or widowed, unemployed, no support group, previous suicide attempts, substance abuse and depression. Those who feel they are a burden on society, a sense of not belonging and combat exposure constitute the most common three variables for suicide, Krowel added.
Neeta A. Pamkumar, Ph.D., of the Michael E. DeBakey VA Center in Houston, said that there is a need for more family-centered treatment for PTSD for returning veterans than in previous wars and that the unemployment rates are higher. But until the military culture in which two-thirds of soldiers feel that reporting mental health problems is detrimental to their careers is changed, the nation can look forward to more troubled veterans.
In another workshop, retired Army Col. James Griffith, Ph.D., said research conducted at the National Center for Veterans Studies at the University of Utah show high rates of suicide among military service members may be related to traumatic experiences they had before they enlisted.
Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among U.S. military personnel. In 2012, there were 319 suicides among active duty service members and 203 among reserve service members, compared to 237 combat-related deaths of active duty service members in Afghanistan, according to the Department of Defense.
Soldiers who reported abuse as children were three to eight times more likely than those who were not abused to report suicidal behavior, he said.