Stress of war takes mental toll on military kids
Children of deployed service members at risk of psychological problems
Stress, strain on military families
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msnbc.com and NBC News
updated 6:00 p.m. ET, Thurs., Aug 13, 2009
The years-long U.S. commitment in Iraq and Afghanistan is taking a significant toll on the children of service members, who are 2½ times more likely to develop psychological problems than American children in general, new research indicates.
The study, published this week in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, found that deployment of a parent was correlated to high stress levels in the parent who remains at home, which it said was linked to greater psychological impact on children.
The findings open a new window on the collateral damage wartime deployment can exact back at home.
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There is abundant research on the effects of deployment and combat on service members themselves, said the researchers, led by Maj. Eric M. Flake, a physician at Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Wash. However, “few studies have looked at how having a parent deployed during wartime affects children,” they wrote.
Davita Hoffman, a specialist at Pikes Peak Behavioral Health Group in Colorado Springs, Colo., said the stress was compounded by military staffing shortages that lead to multiple deployments for many service members.
“Don’t forget, these families generally move once every three years,” Hoffman said.
When Thane Hounchell’s father was assigned to Barksdale Air Force Base in Shreveport, La., in January, Thane, 17, had to abandon his friends and classes at his high school in Prattville, Ala.
“Military children give up a lot, and the fathers and moms are gone a lot,” said Jana Hounchell, Thane’s mother.
Thane acknowledged that the impact on children like him was very real.
Click for related content
Is the U.S. doing enough to lessen the impact of military parents' depoyment on their children?
“You’re kind of in the military, too,” Thane said. “You’ve got to make sacrifices for your country.”
Children’s stress levels could be ‘toxic’
Military children bear “a complex psychosocial burden,” according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, which agreed that data on the effects of deployment on children were only just beginning to emerge.
Recent data make it clear that children of parents who are deployed during wartime “experience ambiguous loss and stress, often beyond normative levels, that may become toxic if not detected and addressed in a timely manner,” the academy said.
What parents can do
The Military Child Education Coalition, a nonprofit advocacy group, says deployment can be a difficult time, for both parents and the families they leave behind. It offers these tips for military families:
• Stay in touch. Ask about homework, tests and school activities. This will help you feel connected to family life.
• Share details about the deployment. Don’t think you’re doing your children a favor by sparing them the details — they want to know where Mommy or Daddy will be.
• The remaining parent or caregiver must make care to take care of his or her own needs first. Make sure you’re connected to other people through groups on base, community groups, church groups or parent groups, so you will have your own support network.
• If it can be determined, find a concrete way to illustrate how long the deployed parent will be away. One way is to create a paper chain, with each day represented by an individual link.
• Leave remembrances. Photos, especially those of the family together, can be very powerful. Record yourself reading favorite bedtime stories or singing favorite songs. These will be treasured resources while you are away.
Hoffman said many service members were diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder when they came back home, and “the child will mimic those symptoms the parent has.”
“It’s a classic case of a child acting out what they see from Mom and Dad,” she said.
Master Sgt. Minnie E. Hiller-Cousins, administrator of the Family Assistance Center at the National Guard Armory in Teaneck, N.J., said that in er experience, the stress starts much earlier than that, with the simple loss of daily contact.
Hiller-Cousins, a 30-year veteran of the National Guard, recalled the emotional impact on her 2-year-old grandson when she was deployed to Iraq, where she served for eight months.
“If I close my eyes, I can hear him screaming as the bus was pulling off,” she said.
In the study published this week, Flake and his colleagues noted a report last month that found that children of service members sought outpatient mental health care 2 million times last year, double the number when the war in Iraq began more than six years ago.
When that finding was combined with their research, they concluded that “the stresses of deployment seem to be associated with a heightened risk for psychosocial morbidity in military children.”
Parents’ stress translates to children’s stress
The study questioned the spouses of 101 recently deployed Army personnel, each of whom had at least one child aged 5 to 12. They were asked to provide information about both themselves and their children.
Based on the parents’ responses, Flake and his colleagues concluded that 32 percent of the children were at “high risk” for psychosocial problems, which can include learning disorders; developmental disabilities; and emotional, behavioral and psychosomatic problems. That percentage was about 2½ times higher than the norm for American children of the same age in general.
The immediate factor appeared to be high stress in the parent who remained at home, the study found.
More services lower stress levels
In the study, 42 percent of such parents were found to be under “high-risk levels of parental stress.” Overall, either the child, the parent or both were found to be at risk in 55 percent of the families in the study.
The report noted a correlation between the level of support a family receives and a lowering of risk levels, which led them to recommend that all families of deployed service members should be offered support resources. Currently, they said, such services are more commonly available to families living on military bases.
“Assessing the parents’ levels of stress and support could help in recognizing children at high risk of problems with psychosocial adjustment, allowing them to be targeted for appropriate and timely services and support,” they said.
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That is a message that has long been promoted by the National Military Families Association, a nonprofit organization that provides programs and lobbies lawmakers for better “quality of life” policies for the families of service members.
The association noted what it called “the cumulative effects of eight years of war on children, their families and their communities.” It said it the children of service members deployed in wartime were commonly racked with worry over the safety of both parents and were under intense strain from the upheaval of changing schools and their relationships with service providers.
The group called on the Pentagon and Congress to “adapt to the changing needs of service members and families as they cope with multiple deployments and react to separations, reintegration and the situation of those returning with both visible and invisible wounds.”
“Standardization in delivery, accessibility and funding are essential. Programs should provide for families in all stages of deployment and reach out to them in all geographic locations,” it said. “Families should be given the tools to take greater responsibility for their own readiness.”
Friday, August 14, 2009
Stress of war takes mental toll on military kids
Secretary Shinseki Announces Expansion of Counseling for Combat Veterans
Additional 28 New Community Vet Centers
WASHINGTON (August 14, 2009) - Today, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric
K. Shinseki announced that combat Veterans will receive readjustment
counseling and other assistance in 28 additional communities across the
country where the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will establish Vet
Centers in 2010.
"VA is committed to providing high-quality outreach and readjustment
counseling to all combat Veterans," Secretary Shinseki said. "These 28
new Vet Centers will address the growing need for those services."
The community-based Vet Centers -- already in all 50 states -- are a key
component of VA's mental health program, providing Veterans with mental
health screening and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) counseling.
The existing 232 centers conduct community outreach to offer counseling
on employment, family issues and education to combat Veterans and family
members, as well as bereavement counseling for families of
servicemembers killed on active duty and counseling for Veterans who
were sexually harassed on active duty.
Vet Center services are earned through service in a combat zone or area
of hostility and are provided at no cost to Veterans or their families.
They are staffed by small multi-disciplinary teams, which may include
social workers, psychologists, psychiatric nurses, master's-level
counselors and outreach specialists. Over 70 percent of Vet Center
employees are Veterans themselves, a majority of whom served in combat
The Vet Center program was established in 1979 by Congress, recognizing
that many Vietnam Veterans were still having readjustment problems. In
2008, the Vet Center program provided over 1.1 million visits to over
167,000 Veterans, including over 53,000 visits by more than 14,500
Veteran families. More information about Vet Centers can be found at
Communities Receiving New VA Vet Centers
Arizona -- Mohave and Yuma Counties
California -- San Luis Obispo County
Delaware - Sussex County
Florida -Marion, Lake, Collier, Okaloosa and Bay Counties
Georgia - Muscogee and Richmond Counties
Hawaii - Western Oahu
Indiana - St. Joseph County
Louisiana - Rapides Parish
Michigan - Grand Traverse County, also serving Wexford County
Missouri - Boone County
Montana - Cascade and Flathead Counties
Ohio - Stark County
Oregon - Deschutes County
Pennsylvania - Lancaster County
South Carolina - Horry County
Texas - Jefferson and Taylor Counties
Utah - Washington County
Washington - Walla Walla County, also serving Umatilla County, Oregon
Wisconsin - LaCrosse County, also serving Monroe County
Monday, August 10, 2009
Note: Of course the VA Doctors can say what they want, The VA Claim Reps & raters are smarter.
The VA does not recognize it as service connected…majority of the time…Vietnam Vets with PTSD are still waiting for s/c for Heart, hypertension, etc… (s) ColonelDan
PTSD raises heart disease risk in Iraq war vets
Tue Aug 4, 2009 5:15pm EDT
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Veterans who come home from Iraq and Afghanistan with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health diagnoses are hit with a double whammy: They also have greater risk factors for heart disease, according to a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
PTSD related to military service has been linked to heart disease in the past, but, to the authors' knowledge, the present study is the first to examine the association for veterans of the current Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.
Given the time frame of the recent wars, the authors of the study did not look at heart attacks or other events, but examined risk factors for heart disease instead. PTSD and other mental disorders, such anxiety disorder, more than doubled the risk of tobacco use, for example, which is a well-known risk factor.
The study, by Dr. Beth E. Cohen and colleagues, from Veterans Affairs Medical Center, San Francisco, included more than 300,000 veterans who began using Veterans Affairs healthcare from October 7, 2001 to September 30, 2008.
Most - 88 percent - of the subjects were male and the average age was 31 years.
About a quarter had PTSD. Among those who did, about half also suffered from depression, and more than a quarter suffered from anxiety disorder. About a fifth abused alcohol.
Men with mental disorders other than PTSD were at increased risk for all of the heart disease risk factors studied, including tobacco use, high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes. All of those risk factors were also elevated in men with PTSD, except diabetes.
In women, PTSD was significantly linked to all of the risk factors studied. Other mental disorders were tied to all of the risk factors except diabetes.
SOURCE: JAMA, August 5, 2009.
PTSD raises heart disease risk in Iraq war vets
Today, we’re endorsing our friend Joe Sestak for the Senate seat in Pennsylvania, and we need everyone to rally around Joe to help, as he takes on Arlen Specter in the Pennsylvania primary!
CLICK HERE TO HELP JOE SESTAK BE PENNSYLVANIA’S NEXT SENATOR!
This decision wasn’t hard. When we launched VoteVets.org PAC, Joe was one of our very first endorsed candidates, in his successful race for Congress. He has one of the most tremendous records of service of anyone in Washington.
During a distinguished 31-year career in the United States Navy, Sestak attained the rank of 3-star Admiral and served in the Clinton White House, Pentagon, and in operational commands at sea, culminating with command of the USS George Washington Aircraft Carrier Battle Group. In fact, he is the highest-ranking former military officer ever elected to either branch of Congress.
His record in Congress is just as impressive, in a short time. He is one of the few representatives to serve on three committees, serving as Vice Chair of the Small Business Committee, and a member of the Committee on Education and Labor and the Armed Services Committee. In the current Congress he has had more of his bills pass than either of the state’s two Senators.
CLICK HERE TO HELP JOE SESTAK’S CAMPAIGN!
In the end, Joe Sestak will bring the same honesty, integrity, and hard work with which he’s always served America to the U.S. Senate. Joe understands the unique challenges facing America – especially those of us who served and are serving, and stands firm on his principles. You always know where Joe Sestak stands.
Let’s show him that we are there for him. Click on the link above, and then forward it on to all of your friends and ask them to get into this fight.
Iraq War Veteran
Paid for by VoteVets.org PAC
Not Authorized by Any Candidate or Candidate’s Committee
Partial reprint of attached article in PDF format
Mum's the word
A declassified letter by V.K. Rowe
at Dow's Biochemical Research
Library to Bioproducts Manager Ross
Milholland dated June 24, 1965
clearly states that the company knew
the dioxin in their products,
including Agent Orange, could hurt
In reference to 2,4,5,-trichlorophenol
(components of Agent Orange), Rowe
"This material is exceptionally toxic;
it has a tremendous potential for
producing chloracne and systemic
Rowe worried the company would
suffer if word got out.
"The whole 2,4,5-T industry would
be hard hit and I would expect
restrictive legislation, either barring
the material or putting very rigid
controls upon it."
The report quotes a 1988 letter from
Dr. James R. Clary, a former
government scientist with the
Chemical Weapons Branch, to Senator
Tom Daschle. Dr. Clary was involved
in designing tanks that sprayed
herbicides and defoliants in Vietnam,
according to the report.
Clary told Daschle:
"When we (military scientists)
initiated the herbicide program in the
1960's, we were aware of the potential
for damage due to dioxin
contamination in the herbicide. We
were even aware that the 'military'
formulation had a higher dioxin
concentration than the 'civilian' version
due to the lower cost and speed of
manufacture. However, because the
material was to be used on the 'enemy,'
none of us were overly concerned. We
never considered a scenario in which
our own personnel would become
contaminated with the herbicide. And,
if we had, we would have expected our
own government to give assistance to
veterans so contaminated."
Chemical warfare: calling a spade a
Supporters of the US's Agent Orange
Campaign prefer to call it an
"herbicide program" rather than
chemical warfare. But official
documents reveal that the US Senate
knew its real name.
In US Senate Congressional Records
dated August 11, 1969, a table
presented to senators showed that
congress clearly classified 2,4-D and
2,4,5-T (main components of Agent
Orange) in the Chemical and Biological
The table also includes Cacodylic
Acid, a main component of Agent Blue,
another chemical sprayed on Vietnam
to kill plants, in the official Chemical
and Biological Warfare category. The
table describes it as "an arsenic-base
compound.heavy concentrations will
cause arsenical poisoning in humans.
Widely used in Vietnam. It is
composed of 54.29 percent arsenic."
As Vietnam War Scholar and US
Veteran W.D. Ehrhart put it concisely
in a Thanh Nien Daily interview last
week: "It would be hard to describe
Agent Orange as anything other than
a chemical weapon. Dioxin is a
chemical." So is arsenic.