Getting past the stress of war

Pride, reputation keep troubled soldiers from reaching out for help they need

Chad Graham
The Arizona Republic
May. 28, 2007 12:00 AM

When Charles Thomas returned to Phoenix’s Water Services Department in April 2006 after serving a year in Iraq, the once gregarious and outgoing man had turned quiet.

He was abrupt with co-workers.

He was nervous around crowds.
He looked exhausted. “I thought I looked fine,” Thomas said in an interview. “Other people looking at me saw the difference.”

For many of the 3,000-plus Arizona National Guard and military reserve members who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan in the past 5 1/2 years, their return home has been a struggle as they try to adjust from the battlefield to the workplace.

“In general, there’s a dramatic need for more post-service care and attention to the needs of these individuals,” said Scott Essex, chairman of the Arizona committee of the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, a liaison between veterans and employers.

Always on alert

There are no data on how many are suffering at Arizona workplaces, but one study published in March in the Archives of Internal Medicine revealed that 25 percent of veterans who fought in Iraq or Afghanistan received a mental health diagnosis.

Of those, more than half had two or more such diagnoses.

Back on the job, many vets begin “reverting back to the behavior that kept them alive for 12 months,” said Matthew Friedman, executive director of the National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in White River Junction, Vt.

In interviews with The Arizona Republic, members of the Guard and reservists described spending months on alert every second of the day, dodging death in surprise firefights and watching members of their units, as well as civilians, die.

They returned in a hypervigilant state, unable to convey their emotions to family, friends and co-workers.

 

Read the rest at AZ Central.

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~ by Brad Edwards on May 30, 2007.

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