AP’s Pauline Jelinek covers a story about Iraq and Afghanistan combat-generated post traumatic stress disorder that gets facts in perspective. Some, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have suggested mental disorders affect 20% of those returning from combat areas. Army Surgeon General Eric Schoomaker notes that PTSD is widely misunderstood by the press and the public—and that what is often just normal post-traumatic anxiety and stress is mistaken for full-blown PTSD. Schoomaker does report that PTSD was up recently because 1) 2007 was the most violent year in both conflicts; 2) more troops were serving their second, third or fourth tours of duty, which dramatically increases stress, and; 3) officials extended tour lengths to 15 months from 12. Two of these factors are changing for the better in 2008.
Still, the Surgeon General’s latest statistics indicate PTSD affected 2.7% of those serving in combat areas, a figure in the neighborhood of the Veterans Administration’s nearly 4% estimate.