Interagency Chaplains Conference Focus on Post Traumatic Stress
June 1, 2011
Finding a path from the academic to practical treatments of Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) was the focus of the 5th Annual National Capital Region Interagency Chaplains Conference, held at Fort McNair’s Baruch Auditorium " Industrial College of the Armed Forces, May 25, 2011.
The theme of the conference, “Not Quickly Broken " Post Traumatic Stress Mitigation and Alleviation/movements in Theory and Practice” was presented to more than a hundred chaplains, counselors and care givers who provide support to police, fire, EMS and Federal agencies. Speakers and panelists from academia and therapeutic fields discussed transitions from clinical insights to possible best practices of support for those suffering from PTS.
“The topics you’ll discuss during this conference are important to the nation and to every warfighter and care provider during this era of persistent conflict,” said Maj. Gen. Karl R. Horst, Joint Force Headquarters National Capital Region and the U.S. Army Military District of Washington (JFHQNCR/MDW) commanding general during his opening remarks. The conference was hosted by JFHQNCR/MDW in collaboration with the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments Public Safety Chaplains.
“People have recognized that exposure to combat situations can negatively impact the mental health of those involved in these situations. In fact, the diagnosis of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) originates from observations of the effect of combat on Soldiers. The grouping of symptoms that we now refer to as PTSD has been described in the past as combat fatigue, shell shock, or war neurosis,” said Horst. “Is is very important that as a nation, we bring awareness to the impact that mental health issues are making across our forces.”
The morning session of the one day conference featured hour long discussions lead by Dr. William Nash, Ed. “Combat Stress Injury: Theory, Research, and Management,” Dr. Jonathan Shay, Author “Achilles in Vietnam” and “Odysseus in America,” and Dr. Charles Hoge, Author “Once a Warrior Always a Warrior: Navigating the Transition from Combat to Home.”
According to Shay, a staff psychiatrist at the Department of Veterans Affairs Outpatient Clinic, Boston since 1987 treating combat veterans with severe psychological injuries, combat PTSD is moral, social, philosophical, and spiritual injury and the biological nature of human beings is to be moral, social, philosophical, and spiritual, so the injury also shows itself as medical disorders.
“Healing is psychological, social, and spiritual -- no medicine can cure combat PTSD,” said Shay. “Healing can never mean a return to 17-year old innocence. However, healing means building a good human life with others -- a life that a veteran can embrace as his own.”
During the afternoon, panelists gave personal insight into the care of Wounded Warriors. Panelists included Chaplain Kim Donahue, U.S. Navy, National Intrepid Center of Excellence, National Naval Medical Center (NNMC); Chaplain David Oravec, U.S. Navy, Casualty Affairs Chaplain, NNMC; Chaplain Randal Bowen, DeWitt Hospital, Ft. Belvoir and former Chaplain for the Warrior Transition Unit at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and Chaplain Gordon Ritchie, U.S. Navy, US Marine Corp Wounded Warrior Regiment Chaplain.
“May is Military Appreciation and Mental Health Awareness Month,” said Horst. “It is fitting that during May, the citizens of America shine a spotlight on the selfless service and dedication of our service members, as well as the resiliency of our military families.”