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Officers learn to deal with situations involving PTSD

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Fifteen months is a long time to fear that every piece of roadside garbage is going to explode or that a suicide bomber is tracking your Humvee.

Dr. Miriam Hancock talks with Richmond County Sheriff's Office personnel about dealing with veterans who are showing signs of post traumatic stress disorder. 
  Jackie Ricciardi/Staff
Jackie Ricciardi/Staff
Dr. Miriam Hancock talks with Richmond County Sheriff's Office personnel about dealing with veterans who are showing signs of post traumatic stress disorder.

Multiply that time by three or four deployments to Afghanistan or Iraq and it's easy to understand why returning servicemen and women have a hard time letting their guard down.

"I have soldiers in my (therapy) group who walk the perimeter of the room before sitting down," said Mwende Mualuko, a medical resident at Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center in Augusta. "They can't sit with their back to the door."

Mualuko was sharing her knowledge about post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) Wednesday morning with a small group of Richmond County Sheriff's Office deputies. Helping her out with the presentation on how law enforcement can safely handle people with the disorder was Dr. Miriam Hancock, who also counsels patients at the PTSD clinic.

The mental disorder can affect anyone exposed to a horrific or traumatic event. Civilians, for instance, might experience symptoms after a rape or plane crash. For people in the military, the stress of constantly keeping alert for attack, identifying a friend's body or surviving sustained combat are just some of the triggers for PTSD.

Only about 20 percent of returning veterans develop PTSD and of those cases few are extreme or lead to violence. Counseling, family support and coping mechanisms help returning veterans sort through their feelings and recognize their symptoms.

The problem arises when people with PTSD are placed into a stressful situation, such as police showing up on the doorstep to investigate a fight with a girlfriend or getting pulled over for speeding.

Sand, the smell of diesel or noisy and chaotic environments can also trigger flashbacks for Iraq veterans.

Officers depend on their own hyper-vigilance to survive a shift and rolling up on a jumpy, aggressive person does not bode well.

On Wednesday, Mualuko and Hancock offered some tips to keep an interaction safe with a person suffering a PTSD flashback. They called these "grounding techniques" because in the worst cases a veteran's mind has returned her to Fallujah or Kandahar.

"A common complaint we get from families is that a veteran isn't listening," Hancock said. It isn't that the person isn't listening, she continued, "they're checked out. They're gone."

To help veterans focus, officers are encouraged to speak slowly, maintain eye contact and clearly explain their purpose for being there. They also should ask a person what he sees and hears to determine whether he is disassociating or not.

Wednesday's class was the first of its kind for law enforcement, but important with the thousands of veterans visiting area hospitals and working at Fort Gordon, Hancock said.

Among those veterans are thousands of people living and functioning with PTSD without any outward symptoms. The stigma attached to PTSD is not warranted, Hancock added.

"Even the bravest hero has their breaking point," Hancock said.

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gijoe7898
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gijoe7898 08/19/10 - 02:44 am
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brothers, we doubted this

brothers, we doubted this PTSD for a long time. the VA doubted it for longer. sometimes it's a name for something gone wrong in the head after exposure to humanity at its worst. sometimes it's a label for the way we had to be and will always be, disorder or not. nothing wrong with looking around, being cautious. you/we've survived Iraq, Afghan and more. Don't let some scumbag street boy back here do you in.

Always Vigilant. Always Out Front.

cricketflea
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cricketflea 08/19/10 - 06:47 am
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I totally agree with you

I totally agree with you gijoe. I have a very close friend who has suffered from PTSD for over 30 years and was just recognized with this problem two years ago by the VA. What a shame. He and so many other vets suffer from PTSD and need all the help and understanding we can give to them. These are the people who went to war to assure our freedom!

anotherlook
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anotherlook 08/19/10 - 07:17 am
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Thank you for your service

Thank you for your service Billoftt; and even more for your transparency and willingness to share in order to help others. May God continue to bless you and aid you along the path you have found home.

justus4
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justus4 08/19/10 - 07:19 am
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This issue is extremely
Unpublished

This issue is extremely personal involving the veteran's ability to adsorb horrible exposure to horrific events, and the human emotions associated with keeping those feelings in a manageable place. Some states, especially those with a high concentration of active combat troops and veterans, have instituted a Veterans Courts System which deal specifically with Vets who get into trouble with the law. Briefing the police, according to the article, will not actually help because its the courts that will eventually address the suspected Vet's violation. PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) are going to seriously disrupt the law enforcement community in the next few yrs and, based on historical evidence, many of these guys will end up homeless and in prison - without being properly diagnosed. Just another example of "The First Causality of War is The Truth."

billoftt
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billoftt 08/19/10 - 07:21 am
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My comment got deleted, I

My comment got deleted, I guess it was too long, so here is a link instead. I read this a few years after I left Al Anbar (2004-2005) and helped me through some darker times. I encourage all to read it and use it if it applies to them, and pass it on as they see fit.

http://www.blackfive.net/main/2007/11/on-ptsd-or-more.html

The important thing to remember, it that you are not alone and you can come home.

soldout
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soldout 08/19/10 - 08:07 am
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EFT is very effective in

EFT is very effective in helping these situations. It has done in hours, what could not be done in 20 years of counseling. You can learn it for free, the manual is free, and several studies have been done showing how effective it is. Once I understood how it worked I knew why it is more effective than any approach.

Cadence
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Cadence 08/19/10 - 11:39 am
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Thank God this is being

Thank God this is being recognized and taken seriously. In my day it was called "shell shock" and was spoken of somewhat derisively. Justus, you are right that we will have increasing numbers of returning vets and we need to show our appreciation for their sacrifice by understanding their needs.

BB Whorley
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BB Whorley 08/19/10 - 04:53 pm
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I am so glad to hear more and

I am so glad to hear more and more people and organizations are reaching out to our returning Troops to help them with PTSD. We have techniques that reduce and in most cases resolve the symptoms of PTSD in our Troops as well as Victims of Violent crimes. No drugs or long term therapy and once you learn the techniques you have them for life. go to www.vaporizeyourcombatstress.com this program is free for all military and families interested in learning the techniques. please feel free to contact me with questions. BarBara@BarBaraWhorley.com We are here for you. This again is a free service no sales no catch.
BarBara Whorley

julie
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julie 08/19/10 - 05:50 pm
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There is a great resource for

There is a great resource for Service members, veterans and their families: www.realwarriors.net that also has a 24/7 live chat and toll free number (866)966-1020

They can help folks find resources and programs in their own communities and there are great articles for families at all stages of the deployment process.

3g
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3g 08/23/10 - 05:02 pm
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Best of luck to all soldiers

Best of luck to all soldiers suffering from PTSD , having to deal with war must be a huge stress on one's mind , I could only imagine ...
Looks like some great resources have been posted already , only advice I feel may help some is to try to have a relaxed ,positive outlook and to set goals and travel towards them , enjoy that jouirney .

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