Soldiers Declining Participation in PTSD Programs

Issues concerning rapidly rising rates of the development and consequences of PTSD, or post traumatic stress disorder, among active duty soldiers and those returning home have received ample attention in the news recently. With statistics that point to larger numbers of soldier suicide than in-combat casualties in some instances, the need for developing greater measures to prevent mental health decline and address the issues as they arise in military personnel is clear. In response, the military has been pouring a great deal of funding and effort into various attempts at approaching the issue, but at least one agency, the Veterans Administration in Boston, has found great initial difficulties due to an apparent lack of interest or willing participation among soldiers.

While it is to be expected that a certain percentage of people will not have any wish to participate in initial trials and programs, the considerably low rates –one program has secured thirteen participants out of a needed 135– suggest that there is strong prejudice against the initiatives. Some point to the stigma of mental health concerns within the military as likely being responsible for the low response rates. Others suggest that the very symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder and other issues support the idea that nothing can help, making participation seem pointless.

The precise reasons for the lack of interest are bound to become clearer as the administration and other agencies continue their efforts to secure a greater understanding of the issues veterans face both during wartime and upon their return home. In the meantime, it is hoped that more soldiers will make the choice to become a part of the solution for currently deployed troops and those of the future.

© Copyright 2009 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Fletcher

    Fletcher

    September 22nd, 2009 at 12:47 PM

    One has to wonder how these soldiers are being approached regarding participation in the program. Something as simple as a lack of tact when broaching the subject could be the problem. The military has to look deeper into why the strong stigma associated with PTSD exists and what is reinforcing that in the ranks.

  • Hodes

    Hodes

    September 22nd, 2009 at 2:59 PM

    Members of the armed forces are some of the most taken-for-granted people I can think of… Insufficient funding in the programs resulting in sub-standard mental health-care might be one of the reasons towards this response from the members of the armed forces. Or, it may be pure apathy… some people just do not realize they have a problem until and unless they experience something really drastic.

  • Matt

    Matt

    September 23rd, 2009 at 3:29 AM

    The stigma of the mental health concerns is one of the biggest pointers for such a poor response. Its not easy being labelled as having issues concerning mental health amongst colleagues in any organisation . It’s much worse when you are in the army.

  • Janine

    Janine

    September 23rd, 2009 at 9:43 AM

    Well maybe this is a time when the military needs to step in and make programs like these mandatory. I mean, come on, these are guys who are used to taking orders from higher ups on a reglar basis- this is something that they could make them do as a routine part of their military service. I don’t think that particiaption in a program like this would hurt anyone, it could only help. So why the hesitation unles they are being told that doing a program like this would reflect poorly on them in future reviews or something like that. And that would seem unfair.

  • Azar Czubatinski

    Azar Czubatinski

    July 16th, 2010 at 2:46 PM

    From my personal experience the VA PTSD program is so ill equipped to deal with current issues faced by soldiers its disgusting. My daughter in law went to the program in Palo Alto for women and it only exacerbated her problems. Literally they would not let her have contact with my son unless it was supervised and or during short periods of time at the facility. Furthermore after she expressed her concerns of homesickness and wanting to leave they tried to hold her in the psychiatric hospital there b/c they said she was refusing treatment. Understand she was in Iraq 4 tours had voluntarily gone into this program doesn’t have any drug or alcohol co dependencies and they were trying to force her to stay in a program that mainly dealt with abuses women not combat related ones wasn’t allowed to participate with her male peers in the other ptsd program which in my opinion is pointless because if she has no common ground with the females why then would she be subject to group therapy with them? Why also couldn’t she have been able to leave without complications and of her free will? Thank god when we went back to Germany the Dr. there was more helpful and understanding with evaluating her and didn’t prescribe massive quantities of sedatives and drugs also it was helpful from family, friends and religious help that brought her back to life and out of the stupor the US VA system caused her to be in. Actually I believe this is why most returning soldiers, sailors and marines don’t participate b/c they don’t want to waste their own time and money to go to some ineffective treatment center when they can easily do the same with private insurance but with better results and or just be left to readjust.

  • Concerned Soldier

    Concerned Soldier

    March 25th, 2011 at 12:09 AM

    I agree with Janine, and I myself am in the Army. I have had the privelge of working with the returning soldiers with issues ranging from physical and emotional. I will tell you first that, yes, there is a stigma, however, if they’ve made it to the WTB then they have already gotten past that. Secondly, a great majority of them are perfectly willing to get a monetary compensation for the rest of their lives for having “PTSD”, but very few want to get into programs that could help them and allow them to remain in the military. Then, they get their 30% or higher rating which allows them a monthly check from the government, and go out into the real world and tell how the Army didn’t help them. The Case Managers that try to work with the soldiers BEFORE they get out and have problems are all nurses and 90% are very compationate and non-judgemental. We do our jobs because we get joy out of helping people heal whether it be emotional or physical. The Army has a program in TX and KY (maybe more by now) that is a 12 week program that is very tough, but statistics show that 80% of people that attend, get 100% better or so close that no one would ever notice the difference. Also, we have enlisted the help of outside facilities. The opportunities are there, it’s a matter of the soldier wanting the help.

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