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PTSD researchers chase ripples through community

Families of soldiers with post traumatic stress disorder fear the diagnosis has been viewed widely as a “biological phenomenon,” one treatable solely with medication.

Others worry that overwhelming public attention on the condition has “camouflaged” the other, more prevalent effects of war on soldiers at Fort Carson.

The observations offered a glimpse into the research of two Colorado anthropologists who have spent four years studying the effect of post traumatic stress disorder on Fort Carson soldiers and the condition’s rippling effect on the Pikes Peak region.

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The professors, Sarah Hautzinger of Colorado College and Jean Scandlyn of the University of Colorado-Denver, plan to publish a book on their research, which largely involved interviews of soldiers, their families and people in the behavioral health field. They began contract talks with a publisher this week, Scandlyn said.

On Wednesday, Hautzinger offered a preview of their research during the college’s latest Aficionados Luncheon, a periodic lecture series.

“When soldiers return to the United States from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, they bring more than medals and war stories and visible wounds,” Hautzinger said.

“This project has really been about chasing those kind of ripples through the community.”

The two anthropologists began the project in 2008, when they spent three days interviewing soldiers with the 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment of the 4th Brigade Combat Team.

Their research began as the battalion came under intense scrutiny for several homicides committed by members in the unit, which had been hit hard by bloody deployments to Iraq.

The interviews revealed a wide-spread stigma about post traumatic stress disorder among the unit’s soldiers, with several noting that the condition made soldiers seem “weak.” The troops added that the stigma often proved a barrier to seeking care.

Hautzinger and Scandlyn shifted their attention in 2010 to soldiers’ families and community efforts to address PTSD.

Among their findings: Hautzinger said soldiers often resent being treated only with medication, instead preferring a more holistic approach.

“They don’t want to be cast as patients,” Hautzinger said.

But a larger issue also has emerged, she said. Hautzinger noticed that PTSD has become an easy way for the ”disengaged public” to view the waran overly simplistic viewpoint that has frustrated military families, she said.

“We argue that PTSD, if you look at the community conversations around it, it ends up being a screen that everyone’s commentaries are projected onto,” Hautzinger said.

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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