I read “Military experiment seeks to predict PTSD” in Stars and Stripes with a heavy heart. The study seeks to “predict who is most at risk for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Understanding underlying triggers might help reduce the burden of those who return psychologically wounded — if they can get early help.”
Testing someone before and after battle isn’t going to produce more information than is already at our disposal: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
We know how to lessen our chances of getting cancer, getting into car accidents and becoming violent by not smoking, driving slower, and learning ways to manage our anger. PTSD is no different. Try studying servicemembers to see who has the predisposition to lose a leg or suffer third degree burns and see how far that gets you.
Bringing PTSD out from under the umbrella of shame is to be lauded for sure, but why is it being singled out as the thing to treat before it happens? This is tantamount to trying to find ways to make domestic violence and child molestation “safer.”
Just because there are those who come away from battle relatively unharmed doesn’t mean there’s some magic formula out there just waiting to be discovered that would allow everyone to come home with a happy face. What are we hoping for – disposition and constitution transplants from the unscathed to the pre-deployed?
War is already the least logical approach to anything, much like tossing someone into a food processor when they need an appendectomy. If you know someone is scared of heights, you don’t have to throw them off the side of a building and test their reaction before they hit the trampoline to know it will traumatize them.
Stop “studying” our wounded and treat them fully. Stop purposefully putting people into situations we already know are fraught with peril beyond their control, and dump the rest of the money, time and energy into another thing we already know: diplomacy (and when needed, shackles and snipers) works.