PTSD | KUOW News and Information


Post-traumatic stress disorder is often associated with combat, but trauma comes in many forms.

There's growing evidence that a physical injury to the brain can make people susceptible to post-traumatic stress disorder.

An animated film is up for best documentary short at the Oscars this year. It's only the second time an animated film has been in the running since the category was established in the 1940s. Last Day of Freedom is the story of Bill Babbitt, a man who turns his brother in for murder, hoping the police will help his brother get the care he needs for PTSD.

The Babbitts' story is told through more than 30,000 drawings, most of them in black and white. They were created by Dee Hibbert-Jones and Nomi Talisman, two Northern California-based artists.

Note: This story is an update to a story first reported in 2012 in collaboration with the Seattle Times.

Between 2008 and 2011, more than 20,000 soldiers and Marines were given “other than honorable” discharges from the military. Now, one soldier from Salem, Oregon, has learned his discharge will be upgraded.

How Trauma Ripples Through A Community

Oct 2, 2015
Community members gather for a candlelight vigil for those killed in a shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore., Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015.
AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

Jeannie Yandel sits down with Dr. Doug Zatzick, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Washington who also works with PTSD patients at Harborview Medical Center, to discuss how the Roseburg community can recover from the tragic mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon.

Jane McGonigal
Wikipedia/Public Domain

Ross Reynolds interviews Jane McGonigal, director of game research and development at the Institute for the Future in Palo Alto, about her new book "Superbetter."

While recovering from a debilitating concussion, McGonigal applied what she knew about game science and cognitive psychology to speed her recovery. She points to research that finds games can help control pain more effectively than opiates and help reduce post-traumatic stress disorder.

Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

We might think we have a basic understanding of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD: Soldiers in battle see things they'd like to forget, but years later combat memories come back to haunt them. That's the received wisdom.

But perhaps we have it all wrong. Maybe it's not the reminders of the fighting that cause post-traumatic stress so much as the void ex-combatants face when they leave the community of soldiers behind.

Our guest on this episode of Speakers Forum is David J. Morris, a war correspondent, former Marine and PTSD sufferer.

Morris served as a lieutenant in the Marine Corps in the 1990s, but did not see combat then. He went on to work as an embedded journalist in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2004 he was nearly killed when a Humvee he was riding in hit an IED.

Military Children Serve Too

Jan 15, 2015

Note: Parts of this story may be disturbing for some listeners.

There are some 2 million children of U.S. service men and women. Over the past decade, thousands of these young people have had a parent die in combat overseas, and others have lost a loved one to suicide.

Since the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, approximately 3,000 service members have killed themselves. That doesn’t include veterans or National Guard and reserve troops not on active duty.

NPR — along with seven public radio stations around the country — is chronicling the lives of America's troops where they live.

New Ways Of Treating Trauma: Try Some Yoga

Jan 13, 2015

When a person experiences traumatic events, the aftermath can be extremely debilitating. Trauma not only affects the mind, but can have lifelong effects on the body.

Officer Andy Gould of Auburn, Washington. Gould, a veteran, says his military experience sometimes helps him establish rapport with other veterans
KUOW Photo/Patricia Murphy

The computer screen in Officer Andy Gould’s patrol car rhythmically ticks off details of emergencies from dispatch.

Gould, a 25-year veteran of the Auburn Police Department, wraps up a burglary and gets called to a suspicious subject nearby. A 13-year-old has threatened to kill two people in the house with a baseball bat.

As Gould drives, text from the dispatchers scrolls up the screen. It tells him where to go for his next call, what the problem is — and whether the people involved have ever been in the military.

Medical marijuana is now legal in nearly half of all U.S. states, but doing research on the drug is harder than one might think. Because of federal laws and regulations, it can take years to get the approval necessary to start a study.

University of Arizona doctor Sue Sisley says she was fired for her research on marijuana. Sisley was leading a federally-approved study on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and medical marijuana, when the university cut ties with her.

When patients receive treatment for PTSD they normally don’t get asked what kind of therapy they’d like to receive. Often the provider will use the therapy that is most familiar to them.

That can include antidepressants or psychotherapy, maybe both.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, is launching a $70 million program to help military personnel with psychiatric disorders using electronic devices implanted in the brain.

The goal of the five-year program is to develop new ways of treating problems including depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, all of which are common among service members who fought in Iraq or Afghanistan.

For Some Vets, Growing Old Triggers PTSD

Apr 25, 2014

As veterans from World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam age and enter hospice, we’re learning that some of them, who seemed totally fine all their lives, are experiencing late in life post-traumatic stress disorder.

One study shows that as many as one in three vets have experienced Late Onset Stress Symptology (LOSS).

A little education goes a long way toward ensuring you'll recover from a serious traumatic brain injury. In fact, people with lots of education are seven times more likely than high school dropouts to have no measurable disability a year later.

Ten years ago Tuesday, former NFL star Pat Tillman was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan. Steven Elliott was one of the Army Rangers who fired on Tillman, and he told his story recently on ESPN's Outside the Lines.

The Untold Story Of War With Ann Jones

Apr 10, 2014
Ann Jones' book, "They Were Soldiers."

Battle scars are not always visible.

Post-traumatic stress disorder affects almost 30 percent of soldiers who serve in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Journalist Ann Jones researched how war affects people’s minds by following troops in the Middle East. Her new book is called “They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America's Wars: The Untold Story.”

In it, Jones also looks at how war touches those close to soldiers: spouses, children, doctors and friends. She spoke at Town Hall on March 18, 2014.

Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.
Flickr Photo/camknows (CC-BY-NC-ND)

Re-experiencing, avoidance, hyperarousal: these are the three categories of post-traumatic stress disorder as laid out by the National Institute of Mental Health. They commonly go by more common names: nightmares, flashbacks, anxiety, social isolation, poor concentration, insomnia and startling.

Hypervigilance And Crowds Complicate Holidays And Life Back Home For Veterans

Dec 31, 2013
Flickr Photo/United States Air Forces - Iraq

Steve Scher gets tips from licensed mental health counselor and suicidologist Randi Jensen on how to help combat war veterans get through the holiday season and beyond.

When Michael Hartnett was getting kicked out of the U.S. Marine Corps, he was too deep into post-traumatic stress disorder, drugs and alcohol to care as his battalion commander explained to the young man that his career was ending, and ending badly.

"Do you understand what I'm saying to you, son? It's going to be six and a kick," Hartnett recalls the commander telling him.

The "six" was an expected six months of hard labor in the brig. The kick happened at Hartnett's court-martial, and finally woke him up out of the haze.



In many ways, military veterans hold a privileged place in American society, but not all vets have access to what goes along with that privilege. In the past decade of war, more than 100,000 men and women left the military with less than honorable discharges, many due to bad conduct related to post traumatic stress disorder. Once they're kicked out of the military, they lose access to benefits like treatment for PTSD.

Eric Highfill spent five years in the Navy, fixing airplanes for special operations forces. His discharge papers show an Iraq campaign medal and an Afghanistan campaign medal, a good-conduct medal, and that he's a marksman with a pistol and sharpshooter with a rifle.

None of that matters, because at the bottom of the page it reads "Discharged: under other than honorable conditions."



Flickr Photo/Kris Krug

 Photographing Midway Island
Seattle-based photographer Chris Jordan has traveled around the world to document mass consumption and the waste that results from it. His most recent work is focused on Midway Island, an atoll thousands of miles from the nearest land mass. Jordan documented the impact of ocean detritus on Midway’s native albatross species. The result is Jordan’s first film, to be released later this year. But “Midway” is about more than birds.  How did this work affect the photographer himself?

Understanding Post Traumatic Stress And Traumatic Brain Injuries
There are many invisible wounds soldiers in combat face. Thirty-six percent of soldiers have traumatic brain injury or post-traumatic stress as a result of their time in the military. General Peter Chiarelli retired from his position as Vice Chief of Staff of the US Army after serving as a combat commander in Iraq for two tours. He is now the CEO of One Mind for Research, where he works to get rid of the stigma service members and veterans face when they seek assistance for PTSD and traumatic brain injury.

Madigan Army Medical Center PA

An investigation into improper leadership involvement in diagnoses of post-traumatic stress disorder at Madigan Army Medical Center has cleared Hospital Commander Col. Dallas Homas of any wrongdoing.

The Army has more than doubled its number of military and civilian behavioral health workers in the past five years, however, a newly released report that examines how the Army evaluates soldiers for mental health issues finds that the system is riddled with problems. 

For years, PTSD — or post-traumatic stress disorder — has been an issue for military members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

But humans aren't the only ones with problems. Military dogs returning from war zones are also showing signs of PTSD. And there's evidence that these canines need some extra tender loving care after their tours of duty.

Patricia Murphy

The Army says it won’t release the investigation into how Madigan Army Medical Center handled some soldiers' diagnoses for post-traumatic stress disorder. The denial comes one week after the Secretary of the Army visited Joint Base Lewis-McChord, south of Tacoma, to announce the completion of an Army-wide review on the same subject.