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Homecoming Veterans Often Face Inner Challenge
Date:11/11/2008

Mental health issues may affect 20% of recent returnees, but help is available

TUESDAY, Nov. 11 (HealthDay News) -- In earlier wars, it was known as shell shock. In later military combat -- Vietnam, the Gulf War, Iraq and Afghanistan -- the emotional scars veterans brought back with them got new names for old problems: post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, substance abuse.

As Americans gather for ceremonies throughout the nation Tuesday to honor those who served in the Armed Forces, many veterans are facing emotional and mental problems brought on by combat, and often, they can't or won't deal with them.

The problem has become almost epidemic, according to Linda Rosenberg, president of the National Council for Community Behavioral Healthcare, one of many organizations focusing on the mental and physical health needs of returning veterans.

The ratio of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suffering from PTSD or depression is one-in-five, Rosenberg said, citing a landmark study from the Rand Corp. released earlier this year. That's about 300,000 veterans just from the current wars, researchers estimated.

For many combat veterans, the problem is compounded by multiple mental ailments, according to Keith Armstrong, a licensed clinical social worker at the San Francisco Veteran Affairs Medical Center and co-author of "Courage After Fire: Coping Strategies for Troops Returning from Iraq and Afghanistan and Their Families," a 2005 book that explored the scope of the problem.

While depression and PTSD are common, according to experts, so are anxiety and substance abuse.

Making the mental health problems worse, Rosenberg said, is the increase in multiple tours of duty.

"You can imagine having to go through war once, the danger of that," she said. "For some, it's more than twice -- it's three or four times."

Many veterans are reluctant to seek help, th
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