By Robert Stoneback
The Danville News
DANIVLLE — On Veterans Day we honor those who have fought for American freedom, but it can serve as a painful reminder for some veterans.
Many soldiers, as well as non-military civilians, suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. The disorder causes panic attacks in its victim’s if an event triggers memories of a stressful or traumatic period.
“Some people exposed to very traumatic events, wartime combat or even Hurricane Sandy exposure, they develop these disorders. … They have fear, panic attacks and they’re not able to function,” said Dr. Joseph Boscarino, a Vietnam veteran and senior investigator for Geisinger Health System. Boscarino is currently researching veterans’ suicides.
“It’s part of a normal human reaction. For some people it gets very debilitating and problematic,” he said.
PTSD can also be triggered if somebody the subject cares for was involved in a traumatic event. One example Boscarino gave was people who developed the disorder after their loved ones were hurt in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center.
A recent study found that a random sampling of 700 veterans from within Geisinger Health System’s service area found that only six to seven percent of them suffered from PTSD, Boscarino said. The soldiers were of various ages and participated in conflicts ranging from Vietnam to more recent deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Among Montour County veterans, PTSD is very common, according to Doug Resseguie, director of Montour County’s veteran affairs. “I have veterans who have PTSD from Korea all the way up to the present,” he said. A high percentage of them are from the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Each combat veteran is different, they handle stressful situations differently. In some, its more severe than in other cases,” Resseguie said. “I can say that for Iraq and Afghanistan I’m seeing a lot of PTSD from IED (improvised explosive device) exposure and some traumatic brain injury associated with IEDs.”
For anyone suffering from PTSD, government agencies can help.
Local veterans suffering from PTSD can fill out a form at Montour County’s office of veteran affairs, Resseguie said. A vet center in Williamsport offers counseling and there are other PTSD clinics in Berwick and the Wilkes-Barre area.
Veterans can also go online at www.va.gov to obtain free counseling, Boscarino said. If a PTSD sufferer is not a veteran, they will need to contact their healthcare provider to see what counseling their insurance offers. “There are agencies out there in your community that can be found pretty easily by speaking with your provider,” Boscarino said, though some of the offerings may change due to the implementation of health care reform in 2014.