Dealing With Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

April 27, 2006 -- Posted at 10:00 a.m. CDT

JONESBORO -- It's a painful time in our nation's history, years of riots and protests, we were engaged in a war that deeply divided our country.

"There's not a man or women that came back from Vietnam that didn't grow by many years during the year they spent there. Eighteen years old and having to kill is just not what it's supposed to be. I can't believe it was the proper thing to have to do at that age because it changes you, it makes you hard and cold inside," said Roger Ray.

It's been more than 30 years since Roger Ray returned from Vietnam, but day after day he re-lives each second there.

He lives through crystal clear memories of friends being blown up, shot, and tortured.

Those memories took their toll on Roger in the form of nightmares, panic attacks, and anger.

"When I went in to see the psychiatrist, he told me that my doctor in the emergency room, downstairs in trauma, had spotted something in me that led him to believe I had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

"It's an emotional and psychological reaction to an event. It's sounds pretty simple, except that with that, there's a lot of physical and emotional problems that go with the disease," said Mai Snow.

Mai Snow is the Director or Behavioral Health for AHEC.

"They go through a debriefing process now, and they are screened. When they come back, some of the ways of coping is denial. You know there's not a problem....this is not so bad, I can deal with it. Sometimes they aren't asking the right questions. Sometimes they think it will go away if they don't talk about it and acknowledge it....maybe it won't be there," said Snow.

But the fact is, it can resurface when least expected.

"Someone had knocked over a flower vase and the next thing I knew I was up against the wall looking around and wondering where the shot came from. It was embarrassing, and everybody was looking at me like I am some kind of weirdo. These are the kind of things that keep us veterans more at home," said Ray.

For some soldiers, it's that desire to return home and re-adjust to life that causes them to deny there's even a hint of P-T-S-D.

Lt. Colonel Dave Grossman is retired from the Army.

He is an internationally recognized scholar, author, and educator.

He teaches what he calls "the bulletproof mind."---mental preparation for combat, and how not to get PTSD.

"That expectation that everyone is going to be harmed by war can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. We have to be so careful. That vast majority of people coming home from war are going to be just fine," said Grossman.

Grossman believes that because he says today's soldiers are better mentally and physically prepared combat.

"There will still be a percentage that are hurt, and we have a moral obligation to deal with them, but the truth is that in most people this is something that can be dealt with--it can be healed. As long as your not dead, there is always hope," said Grossman.

"These groups that we go to with these other veterans make it possible because we know we're not the only ones suffering," said Ray.

"Once you digested it, and once you have processed it, you are a stronger, better, bolder, braver person for what happened. We call those people veterans. They are the ones we lean on, they are the ones we depend on," said Grossman.

Some experts believe there are predisposing factors that could make someone more susceptible to P-T-S-D.

Things like previous unresolved trauma, or lack of physical and mental preparation before combat can contribute.

If you think you may be suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or know someone showing signs, there is help available--call 972-0063.

This story runs Thursday night on Nightbeat.