Want to help vets with PTSD? Treat families too

WASHINGTON — Spouses of veterans suffering mental health war wounds know the stresses those illnesses can bring to the entire family. Now, a new study from University of Missouri (highlighted by Syracuse’s Institute for Veterans and Military Families this week) suggests that treating that “secondary traumatization” can be an important step in helping cure the veterans’ issues.

The study notes that research on those family issues so far have “largely focused on improving relationships and reducing veterans’ symptoms, rather than targeting improvements in the psychological well-being of the spouse and children.”

But researchers said reducing the burden on caregivers and dependents, and helping them address their own stresses and trauma, can lead to more positive treatment outcomes for veterans. “The practical implications of this paper include the need for further collaboration among institutions and social organizations serving veterans to expand services to the families as well,” the report states.

The report also suggests broadening Veterans Affairs programs for families, although researchers acknowledge that the department is already overwhelmed with its caseload of veterans.

“Although the family relationships with the veteran would not be the primary focus in such programming, the direct benefit to the veteran of improving family life and supports would be substantial,” the study states.

More information on the research is available at the institute’s web site.

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