Depression Marathon Blog

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Diagnosed with depression 17 years ago, I lost the life I once knew, but in the process re-created a better me. I am alive and functional today because of my dog, my treatment team, my sobriety, and my willingness to re-create myself within the confines of this illness. I hate the illness, but I'm grateful for the person I've become and the opportunities I've seized because of it. I hope writing a depression blog will reduce stigma and improve the understanding and treatment of people with mental illness. All original content copyright to me: etta. Enjoy your visit!

Monday, January 12, 2009

PTSD not worthy of purple heart??

In a decision which can only be described as baffling, the Pentagon has decided that a purple heart shall be awarded only to those who suffer "physical" injuries during a war. This is a slap in the face to our country's military personnel who bravely risked their lives, shockingly witnessed violence, maiming and death, and then tragically lost their jobs, homes and families as a result of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Perhaps loss of function would be a better determinant of who should and should not qualify for one of our military's highest honors. Is a traumatized soldier who can't sleep, can't work, can't sustain his marriage, and eventually commits suicide as a direct result of his war experiences less deserving of this medal than a soldier who takes a bullet fragment in the ass? How can anyone, even a government agency, ponder such a comparison and still find justice in this decision?

Stigma and discrimination rear their ever-present, ugly heads once again. To the U.S. servicemen and women belittled by this ridiculous "policy," let me be the first to say, "I'm sorry."


Fram said...

While wandering more-or-less aimlessly through the sea of blogs, I stumbled into (onto?) your page. Which ever. I think your commentary to be unique, interesting and well worth reading. I plan to visit here periodically, if you don't mind.

Now, to business. Having completed a run with the Marine Corps, I agree with the Pentagon decision on this matter. This is not to claim my viewpoint is unassailable, but I am aware of fraudulent PTSD claims, primarily some arising years after discharge by people looking to increase the size of their bank accounts with disability checks. A bullet in the butt is readily visible. A mental or psychological injury is not. This issue is not a simple black and white matter.

etta said...

Welcome, and thank you for your comment! I appreciate your perspective.

I understand there may be difficulty diagnosing the "hidden" effects of war, but I again go back to effect on function. Since the purple heart carries with it an increase in disability pay and other benefits, how can we compare a bullet in the butt to someone who loses their livelihood and possibly their life?

I don't have any trouble granting benefits or medals to people who are injured during war regardless of injury or effect on function as long as all are treated equally. But as a person with mental illness, I know there is rarely equal treatment, and dealing with mental illness is no picnic.

Someone who attempts to "fake" PTSD would have to be both ingenious and resilient. Ingenious to get all the symptoms right and pass all the lie-detecting psychological exams required before any disability benefits are granted. And resilient to put up with the loss of income, poor healthcare (several of my worst experiences with this illness came at the hands of mental health providers), and generalized public disdain. A bullet to the butt may be acutely painful and leave a scar, PTSD may be chronically injurious and lead to death.

That being said, I don't doubt there are a few who could put up with the crap and pull off such a ruse. I guess I'd rather honor the hundreds of thousands who are honestly suffering than dismiss them all as a result of a few idiots.

Fram said...

Thanks for your initial thanks.

I do want to make certain it is clear that I would have no objections to awarding the Purple Heart for psychological wounds. I simply am skeptical about the legitimacy of claims and accuracy in determining the validity of claims, particularly "within the ranks" of an increasingly politically correct military bureaucracy.

Enough about that from me.

etta said...

I understand your concerns. Thanks again for your unique perspective on this. I appreciate your comments.