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Media Does Disservice to Veterans by Sensationalizing PTSD Stories

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For the past two weeks, movie goers have flocked to the film American Sniper, the story of an American hero gunned down by a fellow veteran stricken with PTSD. But new information has revealed that, while the gunman had serious mental health problems, PTSD was not among them.

However, major media outlets continue to beat the PTSD drum, adding to the stigma associated with PTSD and mental illness, to the detriment of America’s veterans and mental health care at large.

Clint Eastwood’s latest war drama chronicling the life of Chris Kyle, one of the deadliest snipers in history, has become a smash hit with movie fans. The tragic irony that Kyle was shot in the back by a veteran suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has been the media narrative since Kyle’s death in February 2013.

But things may not be as they seem, according to at least one veteran’s organization. There is no question regarding the series of events that occurred at the Rough Creek gun range in Texas on February 2, 2013. Eddie Ray Routh murdered Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield in cold blood. Authorities found Routh in Kyle’s truck on the same evening and took him into custody.

But this isn’t the entire story.

Both the Routh and Kyle families were quick to point out that the alleged killer was getting help from Kyle because he was suffering from PTSD. After Kyle’s own discharge from the U.S. Navy, suffering from the disorder himself, he chose to try to help other vets who were coming home, enabling them to transition back into society.

Recently, however, it was revealed that Routh’s military service may not have been as traumatic as Kyle and Littlefield were led to believe. According to The Warfighter Foundation:

“Eddie Routh served one tour in Iraq in 2007, at Balad Air Base (the 2nd largest U.S. installation in Iraq), with no significant events. No combat experience. Let me say that again, he NEVER SAW COMBAT or any aspect of traumatic events associated with a combat deployment (i.e. incoming mortar or rocket fire). He never left the base, EVER.”

Balad Air Base had been the focus of some insurgent mortar fire, but none occurred while Routh was there.

After Kyle’s own discharge from the U.S. Navy, suffering from (PTSD) himself, he chose to try to help other vets who were coming home.
The Warfighter Foundation, a nonprofit veterans group, filed a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain information about Routh’s service record. It was through the information they received that the group discovered Routh had not experienced any type of combat.

“[Routh] held a non-combat arms occupation of 2111 (Small Arms Repairer/ Technician or more commonly referred to as an Armorer),” the group reported. “Balad Air Base had a Pizza Hut, 24 hour Burger King, Subway, Popeye’s, Baskin Robbins, movie theater, and even a miniature golf course. It even had a strictly enforced 10 mile per hour speed limit!”

It is known fact that Routh’s family contacted Kyle about their son’s diminishing mental health. Routh was admitted to inpatient psychiatric treatment prior to the events at Rough Creek Ranch, according to a report from the Daily Mail.

“Routh had been taken to a mental hospital twice in the past five months and told authorities that he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, police records show,” the report says.

While some would argue that being placed in a combat zone can create PTSD, one thing is clear; the United States military and the VA have a growing problem regarding the mental health of returning veterans.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, “Mental health cases among war veterans, including PTSD, drug and alcohol dependency and depression, grew by 58 percent from 63,767 in 2006 to 100,580 in 2007, VA records show.”

Further bolstering the rationale for expanded mental health screening and treatment is the case of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. Bergdahl disappeared from his command post in Afghanistan in 2008 and spent 5 years as a Taliban prisoner of war.

What makes this case compelling is that there are allegations that he left his post intentionally. Despite media reports that he will not be charged with desertion, The Pentagon is still considering charges.

Prior to his enlistment in the Army, Bergdahl had been administratively separated from the Coast Guard for mental health reasons. In the days following his disappearance and once again following his return, Bergdahl’s letters and journals were examined and painted a picture of a deeply troubled individual.

It is no secret that the military and the VA’s mental health care programs are struggling to keep up with the needs of those returning from more than a decade of war, in addition to those who have suffered traumas at home, such as sexual assault.

A report from the Washington Post found that the military lacks an adequate number of mental health care providers and is using out-dated and ineffective methods for diagnosing and treating mental health problems of all varieties, but PTSD in particular.

“Imagine going to your doctor because you think you have a broken leg and your doctor asks 20 questions,” retired Gen. Peter Chiarelli, a former Army vice chief of staff told the Post. “And then your doctor says, ‘You don’t have a broken leg. You can go home.’ You’d say, ‘Aren’t you going to X-ray my leg?’ That’s how we diagnose PTS.” Chiarelli does not believe that Post Traumatic Stress rises to the level of a “disorder.”

Since the beginning of the VA health care scandal, the VA says they have been actively working toward making meaningful changes to their health care programs — including mental health care — that would better serve veterans. According to a joint statement from the DoD and VA, many of these efforts concentrate on the continuity of care for those transitioning from active duty to civilian life and VA services. But many believe that the DoD and VA are still missing the mark.

“There are different methods by which clinical PTSD can be treated, ranging from pharmaceutical suppression of some of the effects and symptoms to various types of relaxation techniques, exercises and supportive ventilation that encourage a normal ‘reprocessing’ of the information regarding the trauma into ‘standard’ memory,” says Dr. David Reiss, M.D., a practicing psychiatrist in California.

Dr. Reiss has done extensive work with veterans recovering from PTSD. He maintains that a “one-size-fits-all” approach is ineffective and akin to poor medicine.

“However, every individual is different and may be more or less vulnerable to having difficulty,” he said. “Each individual may or may not respond well to specific treatment approaches.”

While most media outlets maintain that Kyle’s killer suffered from PTSD, when in fact his service record does not reflect this, they are doing a great disservice to America’s service members and veterans suffering with the condition by adding to the stigma that those with PTSD are people to be feared.

While there is anger and irritability, those feelings are usually internalized instead of lashing out. Most people with PTSD are more likely to become withdrawn than they are to resort to murder.

In World War II, it was referred to as shell shock; in Vietnam it was called combat fatigue. Today’s military calls it something else. But the tragic death of the man called ” The Legend” should be a wakeup call to the DoD and VA for increased vigilance and improved care, and to the media to stop sensationalizing tragedy to the detriment of the nation’s heroes.

Join the discussion Please be relevant and respectful.

The Independent Voter Network is dedicated to providing political analysis, unfiltered news, and rational commentary in an effort to elevate the level of our public discourse.


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71 comments
Mary Poole
Mary Poole

did they both have mental problems according to the DSM-V psychiatric bible?

Lori Mcnealy
Lori Mcnealy

if anything its torn the blinders off our vets need our support long after the battels have ended

Dave Price
Dave Price

so? your still watching mass media? why? You know it is all lies and propaganda then you question its honesty as if it is a real media?

Jim Struckle
Jim Struckle

To be fair, you can substitute anything in that sentence. "The media does disservice to ______ by sensationalizing ______.

Gary Ruleman
Gary Ruleman

It seems it better that it is highlighted for the rest of America so they can understand something of the high price of sending our young men and women to war and to discourage those who govern us from trying to sweep trauma under the rug to save money on medical care for our veterans like they have done with agent orange and on and on and on!

Diayne Watrous
Diayne Watrous

If it wanted, the media could " just shut the hell up".

Jacob Reynolds
Jacob Reynolds

the best book I have read on PTSD is "Wher ethe Rivers Ran backward" by Willaim Merritt. It puts PTSD in Human terms.

Chris Maclennan
Chris Maclennan

PTSD is totally treatable and the VA is leading the way in treatment!

Trenton Boatner
Trenton Boatner

If a veteran comes home and has no one to talk to because their family gives way to cognitive dissonance in a desire to remain ignorant of objective reality; they just martyrd their loved one.

Martin Mcdowell
Martin Mcdowell

^^ the quickest way to end terrorism is to "quit meddling in other people's countries" and mind our OWN business , Dr Ron Paul ,, and the best and quickest way to support out troops is to get them out of harms way ,, and concentrate on rebuilding a America for ALL ,,so sorry , that you had to be subjected to this out rage ,,, Peace is Possible ( with your help ) Ty

Ronald B Cadby
Ronald B Cadby

An interesting exchange I had at the VA clinic: I opined to one of the volunteers who was young and served in Iraq that perhaps PTSD was more prevalent now was because our youth grew up playing computer war games with no reality feedback and when things really went !BOOM! it was more traumatic. My training included crawling under live machine gun fire while live mines exploding. His response was that, as a platoon leader on patrol in Iraq, he 'trained' his troops by throwing jelly beans at them which simply reinforced in my mind that current day upbringing/training in no way prepares them for reality.

Barrett Bryce Hamilton
Barrett Bryce Hamilton

The media shouldn't even matter. These soldiers should be getting their health benefits post war anyways. I'd definitely pay tax dollars for that as opposed to paying for someone that can't stop eating McDonalds every day.

Lois Muir McClain
Lois Muir McClain

Unfortunately, PTSD in veterans is all too real. While PTSD in veterans and mental illness in general should not be sensationalized, it should be taken seriously. As a mental health professional, I see veterans often (and sometimes for free). The real problem here is the VA system, which is badly broken (of course, it's run by our government, so the fact that the VA is screwed up should be no surprise).

Debra Dantona
Debra Dantona

Who the F wouldn't be affected going through what they do and seeing what they see?????????

Fred Harris Jr.
Fred Harris Jr.

Yellow Journalism is alive and well in the 21sr Century!

Betsy Patton
Betsy Patton

You've got to wonder if the media itself doesn't play a large roll in PTSD. A soldier returns home settles back in his recliner which doesn't feel quite fit same because than who now sits in it has witnessed the valor and sacrifices of his comrads in arms as they fight to protect this country. He turns on the evening news only to watch the media glorify and condone the self same enemy in the ne of diversity. They watch their "president" bow to and glorify the Muslim brotherhood. Then the veterans looks at his average fellow citizen who is totally oblivious to all of the above, their biggest problem is which cell phone company to pick? The vet has been totally giving his all while those stateside don't see why they should become involved to protect their own freedom. I guess it would be normal to take a little time to adjust. May they never adjust to where they become as careless as the average citizen..

Michael Curl
Michael Curl

The media should be rounded up and disbanded. They are worthless.

Nancy Toney
Nancy Toney

Soldiers are not the only people with ptsd either. A lot of people live with it every day, the public is unaware if ptsd for the most part.

Andrea Raimondo Warren
Andrea Raimondo Warren

We need to help these guys, trust me what they seen or done will never go away. We need to give them the tools when they come back to at least come to terms with what has gone on

Robert Birdsall
Robert Birdsall

I'm always wary of any argument that the spreading of truth is a disservice save for classified secrets and nonsensical gossip. People should be aware of the FULL COST of war when choosing between hawkish and dovish candidates.

Teresa Jura
Teresa Jura

Tom Coburn is the one that seen to it the bill for vets didn't get through.

Chuck Yeager
Chuck Yeager

So back to PTSD being sensationalized.....thanks.

Stephen Lumpkin
Stephen Lumpkin

Prepare for the big picture. Americans are being conditioned to accept when the gov disarms every Vet they claimed were terrorists in the 2009 DHS report.

Ann Logan
Ann Logan

This is just like they treated the soldiers coming home from Vietnam. Unless you have served in the military you should not even have a vote on this matter. Some people can endure the most horrific things & come out unscathed while others who never left base camp could come home with PTSD. I remember my husband telling me of his first tour in Vietnam. They told them to gather their packs get their guns ready for battle & come off the airplane running. They did this but there were no enemy present right then. This was the welcoming to the war. My husband told me how he got sick on his stomach watching another soldier eating his lunch sitting on body bags. He said a week later he knew how this could be done. Have you ever been somewhere for a single year with a tent at good times to sleep under but wondering if you would ever wake up ? I do not judge these men. I know my husband went through the worst of times & it has left him with scares in his head. You never know when something might trigger something. Fire works are I am sure triggers for most combat soldiers. We send these men,& women to do & to see things that no one should do or see. When they come home we expect them to just take off where they left off. If they do not act like they use to, then we consider them nut jobs. We are their own worst enemy. We think because they are state side everything is great. The night time is the worst. Those dreams seem to never go away. I do feel the best thing they can have is support groups that know about what they have gone thru. Only if you have walked in their shoes can you even begin to understand. My husband told me that if he meets someone who has served in Vietnam he automatically has a kinship with them & is closer to them than others that he has known for years. It is the sense that they get it. No words have to be exchanged . Simply the meeting & knowing they experienced the same things that you experienced bonds that friendship. If you have gone to war like these soldiers have done they do not want to talk about it. They just want to forget it. If only they could get rid of those memories in their head they could get a peaceful night's sleep. As we know not being able to sleep a good 8 hr. at night for days after days will start to wear on you so that you just want to turn off your brain & get rid of those night mares so that you can relax & sleep. Just because they are no longer in a war zone does not mean that your head is not there. These men & women are not crazy. They are people who have experienced something that man should not have to experienced & it will be a part of them forever. They are the first to want to forget everything that happened to them. So do not think of them as crazy & do not doubt what they say. Everyone is different & how they affect everyone is different. Some will experience very little but will tell stories about how terrible things were. They even put themselves into a story of another soldier experience. These are know as an Garret Soldiers or want a bees. They really are frightened out of their minds but want to be the rugged soldiers they hear about. The crazy part of this is that they tell their story enough that they actually believe it themselves. So if you know someone who have served their country just shake their hand & tell them thank you. If you get to know them & bond a friendship in time they might want to talk about the war, but unless they bring it up leave it alone. If they want to talk they will. If not leave them alone.

Johnathan Lemons
Johnathan Lemons

Is this guy speaking English or 'merican? I have trouble with 'merican...

Wren R. Johnson
Wren R. Johnson

No...there can't BE ENOUGH coverage for this very real condition.

Gabriel Bregg
Gabriel Bregg

What? I'm not even sure what that's supposed to say.

Sheila Boswell
Sheila Boswell

You totally missed the point, Jenna Bass I was, in fact, speaking in support of our veterans. I think it says a lot about our veterans who go through horrendous soul wrenching experiences that most of them can overcome and make a good life for themselves. And yes many just can't and it is heartbreaking. You simply made a wrong assumption on a statement that was probably not well articulated.

Pamela La Rue
Pamela La Rue

Our lamestream is participating in the destruction of America. They are all, however, in bed with the Republicans and blatantly anti-Obama. Have you read the rules for posting on this page? Civil discourse, no personal or partisan attacks are some if them.

Leanne Lanzetta
Leanne Lanzetta

I'm sorry for these men. May they get the help that They need. God keep them safe always.

Eudene-Tom Clay
Eudene-Tom Clay

That type of journalist used to be called a muckraker.

Jack D White
Jack D White

Josh your full of obama pigchit anf his lies just like the foney fraudulent lying media is. SO Josh kiss my azz you low life scum sucking obama parasitic leech

Jenna Bass
Jenna Bass

What a generalized statement. First of all the veterans of those time periods had more benefits, there were more jobs around, and if you think veterans from those wars didn't commit suicide or climb inside a bottle then you have obviously not seen the statistics from that time. But all that aside let me just say you can keep your cold hearted opinions to yourself or we can drop you in the middle of a war zone for tour after tour after tour and see how well you do afterwards

Jenna Bass
Jenna Bass

I hate when people try to divide veterans based on the different conflicts. Anyone that fought in a war is my brother/sister in arms.

Jenna Bass
Jenna Bass

Thank you!!!! I completely agree

Sheila Boswell
Sheila Boswell

During WE 1&2, Korean War it was called "shell shock". Our people managed to suffer through and make a life after the war.

James Thompson
James Thompson

"Beat the Drum"...suicide rates for veterans are astronomical! The government and the V.A. are busier than cats covering turds on a tin roof. Shame on you! The government will lie when the truth sounds better and the V.A. is populated by people that think they are in military installations not medical facilities. Every time I call the V.A i have to listen to a "suicide" message...the stupid pricks wouldnt know a patient in distress if the walked up on them with a pistol in their mouths. The V.A. needs to be broken up and every double dipping S.O.B run out of the medical field. From the top to the bottom they are unable to function. Idiots like the one who opined that Veterans do a "diservice" by talking about PTSD. If brains were gas they couldnt get a motor scooter round a cheerio!

Jack D White
Jack D White

Media including NBC, CBS NPR, ABC Brian Williams, waun Willams have a far worst disease and it called kissing obama and his thug lying muslim azz in promoting the fraud obama and his trying to destroy this Great Nation but it won't succeed. Real Americans will stand up and destroy your liberal azzez sending you to foreign destinations hiding from ypur guilt

Les Freeman
Les Freeman

You never overcome it, you find a way to manage it. PTSD is forever like it or not.