Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Let's not forget our female vets

I mean in the positive sense, aside from the Lynndie Englands that give the US a black eye.

I'm glad to see the VA has decided to find out what type of psychotherapy helps female vets (sorry, free reg required; I know, I detest these little barriers so I've put up as much of the article as appropriate).
    Female war vets have unique postwar trauma responses

    After the Gulf War ended, Pam Pelle's battle continued.

    Pelle, a nurse and Army Reserve staff sergeant with the Akron-based 2291st Army Hospital, was called for active duty during the late fall of 1990. For six months, she worked at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, nursing returning troops who had severe orthopedic injuries. Day after day, she tended to soldiers who had lost arms or legs and listened to their battlefield stories.

    After she returned home to Copley, Ohio, Pelle had nightmares and lost weight. A year later, hours after delivering her first baby, she started to hallucinate in her room at Akron City Hospital.

    "I started screaming," she recalls. "I was under overhead fire. I could see Scud missiles. Then, one by one, I could see every amputee I had taken care of during the war."

    Shell shock. Combat fatigue. Post-traumatic stress disorder. For generations, such terms have described the way combat can batter the psyche, as well as the body. Typically, the image of a troubled veteran was that of a man.

    But in the past two decades, an increasing number of women have put on military uniforms, and many of them now fill combat roles. Currently, the United States has about 216,000 women on active duty worldwide, with another 151,000 in the Reserves and National Guard.

    In the ongoing fighting in Iraq, female soldiers have been killed, captured and gravely wounded.

    Experts have long known that men and women react differently to stress. For example, women are more at risk for post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, a debilitating mental health condition that can be triggered by various life-threatening situations such as assault or natural disaster, as well as combat.

    Now, the Department of Veterans Affairs has launched a $5 million study to determine what type of psychotherapy works best for women suffering from PTSD. Continuing through 2005, the study is the largest ever to focus on psychotherapy for PTSD.

    "About 20 to 25 percent of the women who served in the Vietnam War and the Gulf War developed PTSD," said Paula Schnurr, deputy executive director of the VA's National Center for PTSD in White River Junction, Vt., and the study's co-director. "We'd expect the figures for women serving in Iraq to be at least as high."
With talk of draft in the air, this is a needed step. The issues facing female vets have long been ignored by the military and by the VA.