Native Americans, Military Service and PTSD

We take a look at the culturally-unique experience of Native Americans and combat experience. How are Native American veterans coping with post traumatic stress disorder and why are they the ethnic group with the highest proportion of military enlistment in the U.S.? Compared to the general population, nearly three times as many Native Americans have served in the armed forces as non Indians during the 20th century.

Red Lake Elder and Vietnam Veteran Says PTSD Best Treated With Tribal Ceremonies.

The Iraq war has sparked a rise in Vietnam Veterans seeking help for post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Figures from the Department of Veterans Affairs show that PTSD disability compensation cases have nearly doubled since 2000, most notably since 2003, when the U.S. and UK invaded Iraq. A survey of Vietnam Veterans revealed that watching reports about the war on TV triggered flashbacks, sleeplessness, and depression among the Veterans. Many said they sought counseling since the 2003 Iraq war. And now as thousands of veterans are returning from combat duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, concern is growing about the ability of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to meet the demand for mental health services. Over the past year, the number of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan diagnosed with PTSD has more than doubled, increasing from a cumulative 9,000 by May 2005 to 25,000 by last month, according to a recent VA report. A statement from the Democratic members of the House VA Committee said that even as the number of PTSD cases increased, the VA had cut back the number of PTSD therapy sessions for veterans by 25% in the last 10 years.

For many Native American Veterans, culturally-specific treatment for PTSD is an even more important issue. This week, Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley and the director of a VA Medical Center in Arizona signed an agreement to add the traditional Lifeway Ceremony to a dozen ceremonies for which the VA now pays. Returning Navajo veterans reportedly used traditional ceremonies for healing more than anything else. Other Native nations show similar patterns. Many Native veterans suffering from PTSD supplement or replace standard psychotherapeutic techniques with culturally specific healing techniques. The path to healing for Native veterans is oftentimes more complicated and meaningful than a visit to the nearest VA medical center.

Larry Stillday, a tribal elder from Ponemah, a village on the Ojibwe Red Lake Reservation in Northern Minnesota. He is a Vietnam Veteran and outpatient supervisor at the Ponemah Health Center.

Gulf War Veteran on the Cultural Barriers Encountered when Struggling with PTSD. We continue talking about Native Americans and post-traumatic stress disorder, and the combat experience in general for Native Americans. Sean Fahrlander, (Anishinaabe) Navy Gulf War veteran.

Reprint from a 1st voices indigenous radio

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