Nov. 5 2009 - 10:03 pm
All the facts about the Fort Hood massacre are not in yet, and may not be for some time. The early facts left me horrified, and a little scared: Terrorism? Warriors run amuck? But when I learned that the likely shooter was an Army psychiatrist who treats PTSD, himself on the cusp of deployment, I thought, “I’m not surprised.”
One fact we do know is that treating PTSD is itself traumatic. Before you judge or maybe make a joke about some shrink wigging out–or indulge ugly racist fantasies–I want you to imagine a work day spent bearing witness to traumas so horrific media outlets won’t even show the videos. Imagine every day trying to help young men and women somehow put their lives back together despite their night terrors, flashbacks, and chronic sleeplessness. While you reach out to help, they mistrust your every move and respond with hair-trigger tempers, not to mention all the physical symptoms, alienation, and hopelessness. Surrounded by thoughts of suicide–and homicide–you try and keep faith with the honor and challenge of providing care.
But soon the line between their experience and yours starts to blur until, well, something like what happened at Fort Hood today becomes an all too real possibility.
The fact is treating soldiers traumatized by war experience is not just an honor and a challenge; it is itself a risky behavior. McCann and Pearlman, in a 1990 article in the Journal of Traumatic Stress were the first to identify:
(click here for complete article)