Entries in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (3)


Combat Veterans Relax at Dolphin Swim

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- For some veterans, seeing a trash bag in the street can trigger post traumatic stress disorder, but a swim with dolphins on Friday reminded 10 of them that "they can still laugh," their program director, Fred Gusman, told

Gusman runs The Pathway Home, a nonprofit residential recovery program in Yountville, Calif. that's helped more than 300 combat veterans from 25 states get back on their feet. One of Pathway's volunteers recently swam with dolphins for her 90th birthday party and suggested bringing veterans to do it at Six Flags.

"It makes them think, you know, maybe there is life, maybe there are things to explore and maybe life is not all that bad," Gusman said. "I think it's life-lasting."

The 10 veterans who went on the trip all had PTSD or traumatic brain injuries. When they got to the park, they broke into small groups and learned from trainers how to interact with the dolphins before they came face-to-face with their new marine friends.

Charles Quigley, who served in the Army Infantry in Iraq said it took some coaxing to convince him to go on the trip.

"I didn't want to come, I wanted to isolate today," Quigley told KGO-TV, the San Francisco ABC station. "But getting out here, doing this, it's amazing. Really a joyful day."

The veterans splashed with the dolphins, gave them kisses and even got to hang onto their flippers and go for a ride. One even did a little dance with the dolphin.

Six flags donated the morning dolphin adventure to the veterans, Gusman said.

It can be hard for returning veterans to re-assimilate into their old lives, Gusman said. Even once they find jobs or get into school, it's difficult for them to stay there. He said they have a hard time relaxing after living in a state of constant vigilance for so long.

Being in the same place for 15 minutes can be difficult because not moving during combat would give away their position.

"They're looking for something to go wrong," Gusman said, estimating that 70 percent of the people he helps have suicidal thoughts. "They have this feeling about themselves, a heavy sense."

But not on Friday, when the sun was shining after a day of rain, and the dolphins were whistling and clicking at them.

"Learning how to relax and interact with the community in a positive way," combat veteran Daniel Craig told KGO. "And learning how to be a civilian again, and you know that life's not all bad."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Panetta on Military Suicides: 'We Can Do More, We Must Do More'

DOD photo by Glenn Fawcett(WASHINGTON) -- More active duty troops die from suicide than from combat, and the Pentagon chief is frustrated that efforts to prevent suicides are not succeeding.  And despite the Pentagon's efforts so far, suicides are going up among active duty troops – 25 percent higher just this spring.

Speaking at a conference on suicide prevention for service members, veterans and their families, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on Friday called the uptick in suicides the "most frustrating challenge" of his position.

“We can do more, we must do more, and together we will do more to prevent suicides,” Panetta said, adding that “there are no easy answers here. There are no quick fixes. There are no simple solutions.”

The defense secretary said changes must start at the top. “Leaders throughout the department must make it understood that seeking help is a sign of strength not a sign of weakness,” Panetta said.

Panetta said the military now has 9,000 mental health professionals -- a one-third increase -- in hospitals, clinics, and even war zones.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


9/11 -- Remembrance and Renewal: Thousands Still Coping with PTSD

CHANG W. LEE/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A decade after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, thousands are still feeling the emotional impact.

After 9/11, a unified spirit helped Americans cope.

"There was a real sense of solidarity in the community which I think probably limited the [emotional] damage," says Dr. John Markowitz at the New York State Psychiatric Institute.

But there are nearly 4,000 people who are still suffering with 9/11-related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

"Everyone was in a certain amount of shock.  For most people that subsided, but for a lot of people that's really persisted," Markowitz says.

He adds, "Every time there's another catastrophe in Japan or in Norway, wherever, it reawakens this for people."

Markowitz is spending the next two years studying PTSD and the best way to treat it.

He explains that some people try to seal off this event and avoid thinking about it, but certain things can trigger it.  One such example could be the 10-year commemoration of the 9/11 attacks.  While it may help some cope, it may resurface painful memories for others.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio