On January 8, the Pentagon effectively de-legitimized Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), by officially deciding not to award Purple Hearts to service members who have been diagnosed with PTSD.
In May, John Fortunato, a military psychologist, brought up the question by saying he thought making troops with PTSD eligible for the award would help remove the stigma that follows the disorder. Fortunato said, “These guys have paid at least a high — as high a price, some of them — as anybody with a traumatic brain injury, as anybody with shrapnel wound, and what it does is it says this is the wound that isn’t worthy, and I say it is.”
After review, Defense Department spokeswoman Eileen Lainez explained the decision not to award purple hearts to those diagnosed with the disorder: “PTSD is an anxiety disorder caused by witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event; it is not a wound intentionally caused by the enemy from an ‘outside force or agent,’ but is a secondary effect caused by witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event.”
PTSD is a natural result of the horrifying situations troops must witness or participate in on a daily basis, from risking their own lives, to seeing their friends being killed or wounded, to being forced to kill, wound or torture others (including civilians.) Symptoms can include recurrent re-experiencing of the trauma, loss of interest in activities and life in general, guilt, shame or self-blame suicidal thoughts, blackouts, headaches, chest pains, stomach problems, sleep problems, substance abuse, irritability, difficulty concentrating or remembering things and hypervigilance to threat, among others. Recovery is gradual; residual symptoms can remain for many years or the rest of one’s life. The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that up to 11% of Iraq veterans and 20% of Afghanistan veterans suffer from the disorder.
Only two national corporate media outlets covered this story, CNN and the New York Times. The Times also published a blog in support of the decision.