Soldiers urged to get treatment for stress
By ERIK SLAVIN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 1, 2007
CAMP RED CLOUD, South Korea — U.S. Army Garrison Red Cloud officials urged soldiers and civilians at a Thursday briefing in the theater to get help if they are dealing with post-combat stress.
Camp Stanley operations officer Capt. Lis-Mary Wilson’s briefing also encouraged supervisors to watch for signs of post-traumatic stress disorder in their workers.
The message was delivered, but its success ultimately depends on soldiers and civilians feeling comfortable enough to seek help from chaplains, doctors and social workers.
“No one has the right to judge you. They don’t know what you saw or what you’ve done,” Wilson told the 30 to 40 soldiers and civilians in attendance, along with about 20 South Korean soldiers.
Soldiers won’t be punished for seeking help, Wilson said. But how will a soldier who misses time at his post for long-term care be seen in the eyes of a commander? What will care from a psychiatrist mean to a promotion board?
Maj. Carol Highsmith, a chaplain who observed the briefing, says she’s heard soldiers express these fears. “For soldiers to get help and spend time there in the (medical clinic), it takes time away from the mission,” Highsmith said. “If it’s long-term — that’s a tough one.” At the same time, post-traumatic stress “doesn’t get better if they don’t ask for help,” Highsmith said.
Wilson emphasized the Army wants soldiers to get help if they need it, that soldiers suffering from PTSD or brain injuries aren’t at their best and can negatively impact their mission without care.
The same goes for traumatic brain injuries, like concussions, caused by anything from sports to explosions, Wilson said.
Soldiers with mild brain injuries may think they are fine because they lack a visible injury. However, they may display anxiety, lack of focus and a host of other symptoms similar to post-traumatic stress, Highsmith said.
In either case — but especially for someone suffering from post-combat stress — talking with someone and simply acknowledging the pain can go a long way toward healing, Highsmith said.
If talking to a friend or supervisor about their experience isn’t the solution, officials said, chaplains and doctors, who can refer someone to social-service workers if necessary, are available.
Everyone deals with post-combat stress after returning from a war zone, Wilson said. The deployment circumstances often dictate the level of stress.
Soldiers need to self-evaluate their post-combat stress level for their sake and for their families’ as soon as they come back, Wilson said. “We’re different, whether we realize it or not,” she said. Currently, there is no support group in USAG Red Cloud for those dealing with post-combat stress.
But at Yongsan Garrison, two chaplains with extensive combat-zone experience run a program called the OIF/OEF Soldiers in Arms Support Group. They welcome anyone who may be suffering from combat stress, who wants to help others or simply wants to talk about their combat-zone experiences.
For information, call military chaplain Capt. Glenn Palmer at 010-9145-5496.