Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Purple Heart Issue Divides Oklahoma Mental Health Counselors

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Purple Heart Issue Divides Oklahoma Mental Health Counselors

Article excerpt

Mental health counselors in Oklahoma are of two minds when it comes to a recent push by the National Alliance on Mental Illness to have post-traumatic stress disorder recognized as an injury for Purple Heart medals.

There's little doubt that PTSD should be acknowledged as a major, life-changing disruption to many veterans' lives after military action in service to their country, said Dave Gordon, executive director at NAMI Oklahoma.

And other professionals agree.

"I think it is needed; I think it is a big step to de- stigmatization of mental illness," Gordon said Friday. "Our soldiers come home with many types of injuries, and it's high time that we recognize those who have fought for our country and now suffer from PTSD and other disorders."

But on the other hand, psychological health is still a very private matter and a medal for PTSD could reveal too much personal information about the individual publicly, Edmond psychologist Stewart R. Beasley Jr. said.

"NAMI has always been a great mental health advocate," he said. "In this case, I'm not sure I agree with their proposal. I can't say I'm in favor of it."

NAMI officials recently released a report calling for the U.S. military to make service members with combat-related psychological injuries eligible to receive the Purple Heart. According to the organization's Parity for Patriots report, in 2011 there were more hospitalizations for mental disorders among active-duty service members than for any other major injury.

The Purple Heart is awarded to those who have been wounded or killed by the enemy in combat. Interaction with the enemy is a key element, according to Army regulations, as other injuries cited as being outside the bounds of the Purple Heart include frostbite, accidents and battle fatigue.

According to the American Psychological Association, PTSD is an anxiety problem that develops in some people after extremely traumatic events, such as combat, crime, an accident or natural disaster. People with PTSD may relive those events in the form of intrusive memories, flashbacks and nightmares. They may also avoid anything that reminds them of the trauma and have anxious feelings so intense that their lives are disrupted. …

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