PTSD seminars open to veterans, families

Officials say more than 100 local vets could be affected


If you go

What: Post-traumatic stress disorder seminars

When: 5:30 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 16 and 23

Where: Grand Junction Veterans Affairs Medical Center, 2121 North Ave., Grand Junction.

• The event is free and open to the public. For more information, call (970) 242-0731, ext. 2169.

— For one person, it could be the pungent smell of onions or garlic.

For another, it could be a crowd that makes a person feel trapped.

And, for a third individual, it could be one quick sound, said Bill Harding, Moffat County veteran service officer.

"One might have heard the click and realized the explosive's going to go," he said.

These and other sensory memories can trigger a flashback to a traumatic incident a serviceman or woman may have experienced abroad, Harding said.

Flashbacks, nightmares and depression are several symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, an anxiety disorder brought on by exposure to high-stress situations.

Harding estimates that between six and 12 Moffat County veterans who served in Iraq could potentially have PTSD.

Up to 100 Vietnam veterans living in Moffat County could have the condition, he said.

PTSD is "a normal response to abnormal situations," said Paul Sweeney, chief of customer relations for the Grand Junction Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

The Medical Center is scheduled to host three seminars on the topic starting at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at its office at 2121 North Ave., Grand Junction.

Other seminars are planned for the same time and place July 16 and 23.

The seminars focus on the effects PTSD has on people who develop it and their families, Sweeney said.

The seminars are free and open to the public.

People can develop PTSD through various experiences, Sweeney said, including earthquakes, car accidents or exposure to homicide.

However, military-related PTSD is different from other variations of the disorder in that the conditions that cause it can last for months rather than weeks.

Most veterans returning from combat require a period of time to readjust to civilian life, Sweeney said.

He speaks from experience.

Sweeney, a retired public affairs non-commissioned officer in charge for the Army, remembers returning from a past stint in Sarajevo.

"It was three weeks before I could walk on the grass," he said.

It was his fear of landmines that did it to him.

"There are things that are ingrained into you" by combat, he said.

However, when the alertness continues three to six months later, PTSD may be the cause, he said.

In addition to addressing the causes and symptoms of PTSD, upcoming seminars also will address some of the myths surrounding the condition.

Prevalent myths about the disorder include the idea that everyone who has it will "crack," Sweeney said.

The condition is sometimes regarded as a fiction, he said.

"It's surprising, the number of people who do not believe in (PTSD) even though it's documented back into the Civil War," Sweeney said.

However, he said, the condition is real and, in some cases, can have lasting reprocussions.

"For some folks, it's temporary," Sweeney said. "For other folks, it's a matter of learning coping skills they'll use the rest of their lives."


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