Archive for the 'Treatment' category

PTSD, Mental Health, and the Military: Problematic Reporting at Scientific American and ScienceBlogs

Mar 24 2009 Published by under Medicine, Treatment

Author (and fellow ScienceBlogger) David Dobbs has an article on PTSD in the latest Scientific American, and has several related posts on his blog here at Sb. Dobbs' primary argument seems to be that PTSD is being widely overdiagnosed, in part because the condition itself is poorly defined, and in part as the result of various social and economic factors. At least a couple of other bloggers enjoyed his writing on the topic. Personally, I'm not so sure.

As many of you know, I've got some fairly significant ties to the US military. My wife has deployed twice, and has had close and personal experiences with combat. Our family has dealt with her deployments well, all things considered, but that does not mean that it's been an easy process. The first-hand experiences have encouraged me to take a much closer look at both the military healthcare system in general and at mental health issues in the military in particular than I probably would have otherwise. I'm bringing this up not because I'm hoping that you'll think I'm some sort of authority on the topic (I'm not), but because I'd like to make sure that my potential biases are out in the open from the start.

Dobbs' Scientific American article is certainly thought-provoking, and it raises a number of valuable and important issues. Unfortunately, the important and valid points are found mixed in with far too much poor reporting. Although Dobbs admits that the issue of PTSD diagnosis is complex and the subject of scientific debate, his report is almost entirely one sided. It also contains some apples-and-oranges comparisons, and conflates several different problems. His blog articles continue that trend.

For the sake of simplicity, fairness, and a cliche, I'm not going to go through the article point by point. Instead, I'm going to look at the good stuff first, then the bad, then (naturally) the ugly.

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Enemies, Domestic: Soldier Sues Army for Violating His Right to Religious Freedom

When a soldier enlists in the Army, he or she takes an oath:

"I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God."

For SPC Jeremy Hall, a soldier currently stationed in Iraq, defending the Constitution involves more than his Army service. It also involves protecting his own Constitutional rights from people who don't think someone should be allowed to talk about being an atheist anywhere near a foxhole. Some of those deployed with him, including an officer, have responded to his decision to not be religious with threats and intimidation. It didn't work. Hall wants his rights, and he's not backing down. On Tuesday, he filed a federal lawsuit against the United States Department of Defense, the Secretary of Defense, and the officer who tried to intimidate him.

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