Invisible- but physical- wounds

The Pentagon has decided not to award the Purple Heart to soldiers who had developed PTSD as a result of their combat experiences.

Their reasoning?

PTSD is "not a physical wound." The New York Times article goes on to say that "...a Pentagon advisory group decided against the award because, it said, the condition had not been intentionally caused by enemy action, like a bomb or bullet, and because it remained difficult to diagnose and quantify."

Other soldiers and Pentagon officials expressed concerns that people could fake PTSD symptoms to obtain the award, or that expanding the medal to psychological concerns would "debase" the honor.

To me, this just exemplifies our society's confusion about what mental illness really is, and what causes it. PTSD causes physical and structural changes to the brain- just because the symptoms are changes in behavior doesn't mean that the problem doesn't have a physical basis. People with amputated legs may have Phantom Limb Syndrome, but because you can physically see the lost limbs, it's somehow more real than PTSD.

Military officials can--and will--award the medal how they see fit. Their conditions are their conditions, and there's not much I can do about that. But whatever they say, PTSD is as real and physical as a bullet wound.

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3 comments:

Katy said...

*sigh*

I could understand their reasoning & see the difficulty the military is in w/ deciding how to deal w/ the issue of an illness w/o clear physical markers, up until they used the word DEBASE. Seriously? Acknowledging mental illness as a war wound DEBASES the medal? F%#@ them.

I'm so, so tired of "mental" illness being seen as lesser than "physical" illness. It's no less real, no less painful, it's not a choice, it's not something people can just snap out of, it's not a moral issue. It's an illness, and though it IS just as physical as more visible illnesses, so freaking what? What if it wasn't "physical?" Why does that make people's suffering any less real or important or worthy of acknowledgment or help???

*sigh again*

Sorry for ranting...this just GETS to me, as I'm sure you can understand!

Carrie Arnold said...

Well, the official statement didn't say "debase." It was comments from other soldiers, etc.

But still.

Juliet said...

I am with you, Carrie. It's ridiculous to me that PTSD is not taken more seriously by the military. It's very sad that people willing to defend our country are made to feel shamed because they are injured in an "invisible" way.

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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