Monday, August 10, 2009

Gone But Not Forgotten: Remembering and Learning From the Events at Camp Liberty

Thank you Psychiatric Times for your eulogies to the fallen mental health workers and patients at Camp Liberty last month ("Death of Psychiatrist and Other Soldiers Triggers Inquiry Into Military's Mental Health Care", July 2009). Dr Houseal and Springle were truly dedicated humanitarians and patriots. I extend my condolences to their families and the families of the fallen patients as well.

I am a psychiatrist at a VA Clinic stateside. We are anxiously awaiting the onslaught of returning veterans who struggle with mental illness and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Existing studies regarding PTSD and our knowledge from working with Viet Nam veterans and Gulf War Veterans elucidates our failures more than our successes. The foremost is the failure to learn from our mistakes. Combat stress is in part dose and duration related. Killing is entrained but not extinguished by existing rehabilitation efforts. Young men and women with a history of abuse and familial mental illness are at higher risk, but they continue to be enlisted with regularity despite claims to the contrary. We glorify the soldiers’ motives to participate in conflict but do not look critically enough at the cultural and national issues that cause leaders to choose to decimate a significant part of the character and stability of our future generations. This is not just a job you may not live long enough to leave; it is a job that never leaves you.

Phyllis Henderson, MD
Board Certified Psychiatrist

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