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Book Examines Social and Cultural Factors Contributing to Combat-Related PTSD among OEF/OIF Veterans


BACKGROUND:
This book follows a group of OEF/OIF Veterans and tells their personal stories of war, trauma, and recovery as they re-enter civilian life while dealing with combat-related PTSD. Written from an anthropologist’s perspective, the author examines the cultural, political, and historical influences that shape individual experiences of PTSD – and how Veterans with PTSD are perceived by the military, medical personnel, and society at large. Despite widespread media coverage and public controversy over the military’s response to wounded and traumatized service members, debate continues about how best to provide treatment and compensation for service-related disabilities. At the same time, new and highly effective treatments are revolutionizing how VA provides trauma care, and redefining the way PTSD is understood. Fields of Combat discusses real-life issues related to living with PTSD, and suggests recommendations to improve PTSD care.

SUMMARY:
Combat trauma is only one of many kinds of experiences that increase the risk of developing PTSD. Other post-deployment issues, such as the inability to reintegrate into family and community life, as well as unemployment, also play a role in exacerbating PTSD risk among OEF/OIF Veterans. A diagnosis of PTSD can still carry stigma that is rooted in American cultural ideas about trauma-related suffering and mental illness – and in gender-specific expectations about male emotion and behavior. PTSD also has become associated with the abandonment of Vietnam Veterans, as well as with VA’s past limitations in providing adequate benefits and healthcare. Against this historical backdrop, VA mental health clinicians have initiated a shift in PTSD treatment paradigms that may have radical implications for how PTSD is understood by the public and by the health care profession over the coming decades. Moreover, the cumulative evidence suggests PTSD is responsive to a number of newer treatments (i.e., medications, exposure-based cognitive behavioral therapies). Additional recommendations from the author include:

  • Provide support for research on resilience, as it relates to coping with PTSD.
  • Continue to focus on efforts to lessen the stigma of PTSD in the military.
  • Provide support for research on military families.
  • Improve Veterans’ and service members’ access to appropriate mental healthcare.
  • Continue to support research on therapeutic and pharmacological treatments for PTSD.
  • Support research on gender and PTSD.
  • Continue to invest in dual-diagnosis treatment and research for Veterans with comorbid PTSD and substance abuse concerns, and
  • Remain committed to the goals of patient-centered care.

AUTHOR/FUNDING INFORMATION:
Dr. Finley is part of HSR&D’s Veterans Evidence-based Research, Dissemination & Implementation Center (VERDICT) in San Antonio, TX. The book is based on a mixed-methods study funded by the National Science Foundation and the Emory University Center for Myth and Ritual in American Life (MARIAL, a Sloan Foundation Center for Working Families).


Finley E. Fields of Combat: Understanding PTSD among Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. May 2011;Cornell University Press.

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What are HSR&D Publication Briefs?

HSR&D requires notification by HSR&D-funded investigators about all articles accepted for publication. These journal articles are reviewed by HSR&D and publication briefs or summaries are written for a select number of articles that are then forwarded to VHA Central Office leadership to keep them informed about important findings or information. Articles to be summarized are selected by HSR&D based on timeliness of the findings, interest of leadership, or potential impact on the organization. Publication briefs are written for only a small number of HSR&D published articles. Visit the HSR&D citations database for a complete listing of HSR&D articles and presentations.