Clinics to help soldiers fight PTSD

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Reporter - Jason Hibbs
Photojournalist - David Dycus

PADUCAH, Ky. - They served their country and now, many U.S. service members come home with hidden wounds of war.

Millions of American veterans and civilians battle Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or P.T.S.D.  In fact, about five percent of Americans have P.T.S.D. at any given time.  It develops after a traumatic event; whether it's the death of a loved one or being a victim of a violent crime.

But there's nothing more traumatic than what some of our women and men experience overseas.

A 2010 study found at least 20 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans have P.T.S.D. and/or depression.  50 percent of those with P.T.S.D. did not seek treatment.  That can lead to harmful behavior and even suicide.

The New York Times reported more active duty personnel died by their own hand than in combat in 2012.  That's what the Army wants to stop.

So, what are military leaders doing to change these numbers?

They've opened behavioral health clinics at every brigade at Fort Campbell to offer one-on-one counseling.  The soldier who spoke to Local 6 reporter Jason Hibbs was deployed six times.  He was in the infantry and says, to his surprise, his P.T.S.D. symptoms developed after retirement.

He is so glad to hear about these clinics because he says this type of help wasn't as available for him when he retired just a few years ago.  Sadly, he says for some fellow soldiers, these clinics are too late.

"I was on the ground, constant. There was a lot of people, burnt bodies, vehicles blowing up, and we all seen it," William Copeland said.

He thought his uniforms, ribbons, and medals would be the only thing he brought back from 22 years of service and six major deployments. He was wrong.

"You might not see it on the outside, but it's there.  It's in your head," Copeland said.

While homecoming is a happy time, Copeland said the Army doesn't prepare soldiers for what happens after they return to civilian life.

"Guys are committing suicide left and right down there because no body is willing to reach out and try to help them," Copeland said.

He reached out for help, but he still struggles.

"The V.A. keeps us medicated, try to keep us from having the flashbacks, having the nightmares, having the sweats, but even though we're on meds, they still don't help us," Copeland said.

He hopes the new clinics and the emphasis on mental health will help the next generation of soldiers.  Because he knows the side effects of war all too well.

Copeland says if you're suffering from P.T.S.D., reach out for help. He's so glad that's what he did. He also got lots of help from a group of peers, who truly understand his struggles and the reality of P.T.S.D.

The Fort Campbell clinics are in temporary mobile homes, but a spokesperson said there are plans for permanent construction in the coming years.

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