Thursday, May 31, 2012

Must-read:War leaves PTSD scars on Native American vets

Today's must-read article discusses the disproportionate level of PTSD in Native American veterans, which has been exacerbated by culture, lack of resources, and other factors.

"While members of many American Indian tribes serve in the military in disproportionately higher numbers than other ethnic groups, studies suggest they also suffer PTSD with greater frequency."

War leaves PTSD scars on Native American vets | Center for Health Reporting

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

John Huston's censored 1946 PTSD documentary restored, posted online

In 1946, famed director John Huston (The Maltese Falcon) made a 58-minute documentary about PTSD (still called "shell-shock" at the time) called Let There Be Light.  The film was quickly censored and hidden away. It didn't even get its first public viewing until 1980, by which time the remaining prints had seriously deteriorated. It's now been restored by the National Film Preservation Foundation and posted online, where it can be viewed or downloaded. The Foundation has also posted extensive notes on the film, discussing its history, production, and restoration.

Check it out:

National Film Preservation Foundation: Let There Be Light (1946)

Sunday, May 27, 2012

45% of new vets seek disability

This Associated Press article is today's must-read:

Almost half of new vets seek disability

According to the article, 45% of vets from Iraq and Afghanistan are now seeking disability benefits related to injuries or PTSD, a big rise from the 21% of vets from the Gulf war.

The big jump comes from a lot of different factors, including better body armor and medical techniques that have increased survival rates and better bombs that do more damage.

A better awareness of PTSD is also cited.

Meanwhile, 560,000 veterans have been waiting 125 days or more for disability claims to be processed, mostly due to sheer volume but also because the average vet is claiming 8 to 9 (and as many as 14) different ailments.

Give the article a read. The statistics are staggering and sobering.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Brain shrinkage in Japanese tsunami survivors with PTSD

Survivors of last year's Japanese tsunami who have PTSD from the disaster experienced a shrinking of their orbitofrontal cortex -- that's the part of the brain that is involved in decision-making and the regulation of emotion.

Brain shrinkage seen in Tohoku PTSD cases | The Japan Times Online

This is just the most recent evidence that shows PTSD is a very real, physical injury.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Houston housing development for vets with PTSD to be the first of its kind

MyFoxHouston reports on a new housing development that could eventually house up to 160 vets with PTSD. Residents will get job training and family counseling while they live there. 

Read more:

First of its kind housing development for vets with PTSD - MyFoxHouston

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Study shows first case of chronic traumatic encephalopathy in blast-exposed military personnel

Investigators from Boston University (BU) and the Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System have shown evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in brain tissue from blast-exposed military service personnel. Laboratory experiments conducted by the investigators demonstrated that exposure to a single blast equivalent to a typical improvised explosive device (IED) results in CTE and long-term brain impairments that accompany the disease. They also found that the blast wind, not the shock wave, from the IED blast leads to traumatic brain injury (TBI) and long-term consequences, including CTE.

This research, which represents the first case series of postmortem brains from U.S. military personnel who were exposed to a blast and/or a concussive injury, will be published online May 16 by Science Translational Medicine.

Lee Goldstein, MD, PhD, associate professor at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) and Boston University College of Engineering, and Ann McKee, MD, professor at BUSM and director of the Neuropathology Service for VA New England Healthcare System, led this international collaborative study and are the senior co-authors.

CTE, which can only be diagnosed postmortem, is a progressive neurodegenerative brain disorder that has been reported in athletes with multiple concussions or subconcussive injuries. In early stages, CTE is characterized by the presence of abnormal deposits of a protein called tau in the form of neurofibrillary tangles, glial tangles and neuropil threads throughout the brain. These tau lesions eventually lead to brain cell death. CTE has clinical features in common with TBI, including psychiatric symptoms and long-term cognitive disability involving memory and learning deficits. TBI can impact military personnel exposed to an explosive blast and may affect approximately 20 percent of the 2.3 million servicemen and women deployed since 2001.

In this study, investigators performed comprehensive neuropathological analyses on brain tissue from four military service personnel with known blast exposure and/or concussive injury. They compared these results with brain tissue samples from three young amateur American football players and a professional wrestler, all of whom had a history of repetitive concussive injury, and four samples from comparably-aged normal controls with no history of blast exposure, concussive injury or neurological disease.

The investigators found that CTE neuropathology in the brains of blast-exposed military veterans was similar to that found in young athletes with repetitive concussion and consistent with what has previously been observed in brain samples from other athletes with a history of repetitive concussive injury.

"Our results showed that the neuropathology from blast exposure, concussive injury, or both were virtually indistinguishable from those with a history of repeat concussive injury," said McKee, who is the director of the Brain Banks for BU's Alzheimer's Disease Center and the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy, which are based at the Bedford VA Medical Center. McKee said that these findings indicate that TBI caused by different factors may trigger similar disease pathways in the brain.

"The neuropsychiatric symptoms of CTE that have previously been associated with athletes diagnosed with CTE could also be attributed to military personnel who were exposed to blast," said Goldstein, who also is affiliated with the BU Photonics Center and served as the study's lead author.

To examine the impact of a single blast exposure, the investigators collaborated with leading experts in blast physics, experimental pathology and neurophysiology at Boston University, VA Boston Healthcare System, White River Junction VA Medical Center, New York Medical College, Fraunhofer Center for Manufacturing Innovation, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Massachusetts General Hospital and the University of Oxford. The team's experimental data showed that one blast comparable to that experienced by military service personnel in the field resulted in both neuropathological and behavioral evidence of CTE. Surprisingly, the long-term impairments in brain function, including impaired learning and memory, were observed just two weeks after exposure to a single blast.

The blast wind from an IED can reach a velocity of up to 330 miles per hour, which is greater than the largest wind gust ever recorded on earth. "The force of the blast wind causes the head to move so forcefully that it can result in damage to the brain," said Goldstein.

Based on the results, the investigators went a step further and explored how they could prevent the brain injury. They demonstrated that immobilizing the head during a blast exposure prevented the learning and memory deficits associated with CTE that occurred when the head was not immobilized.

"Our study provides compelling evidence that blast TBI and CTE are structural brain disorders that can emerge as a result of brain injury on the battlefield or playing field," added Goldstein. "Now that we have identified the mechanism responsible for CTE, we can work on developing ways to prevent it so that we can protect athletes and our military service personnel."

The study results provide a pathway for the development of novel diagnostic strategies for blast-related brain trauma, as well as to treat and rehabilitate those who have been exposed to blast and/or a concussive injury.

Monday, May 14, 2012

This week's Fearless Nation PTSD Support meetings to discuss stress, compassion fatigue, the workplace and more

Five great topics are on the agenda for this week's meetings from Fearless Nation PTSD Support:
  • "5 Ways to Beat Daily Stress" 
  • "100% Proof: Get Your Rightful Benefits" 
  • "Compassion Fatigue in Spouses, Children, Family and Therapists"
  • "Changing Unhealthy Behaviors"
  • "PTSD and the Workplace: What Would You Like Employers to Know"

Click here for full information

Women more likely to suffer PTSD after being discharged from ICU

Women are more likely to suffer post-traumatic stress than men after leaving an intensive care unit (ICU), finds a new study published in BioMed Central's open access journal Critical Care. However, psychological and physical 'follow-up' can reduce both this and post-ICU depression.

Patients in the ICU often suffer post-traumatic stress, anxiety, or depression due, not only to the illness or trauma that put them there, but to the very nature of the ICU and life-saving treatment. As a result, follow-up schemes have been put in to place to help alleviate these psychological problems. Researchers from the Karolinska University Hospital Solna and the Karolinska Institutet compared patient's recovery from 2006, before a follow-up scheme was started, with that of patients in 2007 and 2008.

The scheme consisted of non-compulsory meetings at three, six and 12 months after being discharged from ICU with a nurse, physician and a physiotherapist, revisiting the ICU, and in severe cases being referred to a psychiatric unit for further therapy.

Before the use of the follow-up scheme women had much higher scores on the Impact Event Scale (IES), which measures post-traumatic stress, than men. For women, after the introduction of follow-up, these scores were significantly reduced. However, the scheme had no effect on the IES score of men.

Dr Peter Sackey, who led this study, explained, "In general, for the same event, women are twice as likely to suffer post-traumatic stress disorder, recover more slowly, and are more prone to suffer long-term effects. We found this was also true in ICU survivors. The women with the highest IES scores were the ones who were most helped by the follow-up scheme. While it is not clear whether the scheme only helps patients at severe risk of PTSD, it does mean that these people have access to the treatment they need."

The study is available here:

Critical Care | Abstract | Gender differences in psychological morbidity and treatment in intensive care survivors - a cohort study

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Today's must-read: Connecticut Paves New Path In Treating Traumatized Children

Connecticut is changing the way it treats kids in the child-welfare system: "the state Department of Children and Families, working with experts in childhood trauma, is using a multi-million dollar federal grant to increase from 16 to about 26 the number of outpatient community clinics that practice trauma-focused therapy, and to put it in play at DCF's most difficult facilities, the former Riverview Children's Hospital, reorganized as the Albert J. Solnit Psychiatric Center, and the Connecticut Juvenile Training School."

Read more:

Traumatized Children Treated For PTSD -

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

National Veterans Foundation predicts "tsunami of PTSD-related criminal cases"

The National Veterans Foundation is about to release a new book that it says will help guide defense attorneys, judges, expert witnesses and others during PTSD-related criminal court proceedings.

Why is there a need for this book? From their press release: "History tells us that as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down, the numbers of troubled veterans flooding into our criminal courts will swell. Emerging research reveals a pattern of traumatized combat veterans surfacing in the criminal justice system following every major American conflict. Unfortunately, veterans of past conflicts were often treated quite harshly when their psychological injuries led them into criminal behavior."

From their web page about the book: "This project was not initiated to create a 'get out of jail card' for veterans on trial. The purpose was to create the best defense and back it up with efforts to provide ongoing post-trial treatment."

The book, Attorney's Guide to Defending Veterans in Criminal Court, will be released soon and is available for the pre-publication price of $100.

What do you think? Is PTSD going to result in a lot of vets ending up in court? Is this danger over-stated? Have you been mistreated in the courts? Please feel free to share your thoughts and experience.

The Business Case for Hiring Veterans

Here's a good follow-up to the discussion we started a couple of days ago about hiring people with PTSD. It's focused on military vets, but it still poses good advice both for employers and potential employees. Check it out:

The Business Case for Hiring Veterans | The Military Wire -

Army asks "why don't more soldiers seek treatment for PTSD?"

From a recent U.S. Army report:
  • Less than half of soldiers who report symptoms of PTSD receive the care they need, according to the U.S. Army.
  • Of those that do start treatment, 20-50% drop out.
  • Soldiers display a lack of trust of mental health professionals.
  • They think psychological problems will "work themselves out"
  • They think treatment should only be a last resort.
Read more:
US Army examines why some soldiers avoid PTSD care, strategies to keep them in treatment

What do you think? Are there reasons why you or someone you know has avoided or left treatment? Or reasons why you stayed?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Canadian Police Association: System for treating PTSD isn't good enough

The Ottawa Citizen reports: "The head of the Canadian Police Association says post-traumatic stress disorder is a major issue for police, and the RCMP shouldn't believe its current system for treating members afflicted by PTSD is good enough."

Read more:
Police association says PTSD a major issue for officers

Friday, May 4, 2012

What advice would you give about hiring employees with PTSD?

This article -- Advice for Employers on Hiring Vets with PTSD -- is a pretty good start, but it doesn't go deep enough or give any specifics. Let's come up with a more practical list -- post your thoughts and ideas in the comments!

And don't forget to visit Fearless Nation PTSD Support on Facebook!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Study suggests blood pressure meds may have benefit for PTSD symptoms

Common blood pressure medications called ACE (angiotensin converting enzyme) inhibitors or ARBs (angiotensin receptor blockers) could -- potentially -- have some benefit in treating PTSD, according to a new study.

This is just the first stage of testing these medications for PTSD, though. It was not a clinical trial, so take this news with a grain of salt. (Unless you're on salt restrictions because of high blood pressure.)

As for this study, the authors took a population sample of 5,000 low-income people in Atlanta, 505 of whom had been exposed to some traumatic event. Of those 505 people, 180 met the criteria for PTSD. Out of the total sample of 5,000 people, 98 were taking ACEs or ARBs, 26 of whom had PTSD. Those 26 people reported having fewer PTSD-related symptoms, including hyperarousal, avoidance/numbing, and intrusive thoughts.

Further study will be required.

While it's waaaaay too early to say that taking these medications can reduce PTSD symptoms, it's probably worth noting that it's important to check your blood pressure. Stress and anxiety can raise blood pressure levels, which can have further health effects.

Read more:

Can Blood Pressure Meds Lessen PTSD Symptoms? | Psych Central News