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by Kim Puchir, NAMI Communications Coordinator

When General Patton met a soldier hospitalized for “shellshock” in 1942, he called him a coward. Anxiety, nightmares and anger—which can affect anyone who has experienced a traumatic event—are now known to be symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, which affects an estimated 15-20 percent of veterans. The military is finally starting to take PTSD seriously—in fact, the chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee recently asked Pentagon and Veteran’s Administration officials why they have been slow to try out alternative treatments for the disorder. Service dogs, one of the treatments under investigation, are already being used by veterans as a unique way to cope with symptoms of PTSD.

A person living with PTSD is overwhelmed by stimuli. Something as simple as walking from one aisle to the next in the grocery store can put all senses on red alert for someone like Jim Stanek, a retired staff sergeant with the U.S. Army who completed three tours in Iraq. “That space you can’t see between the aisles, in the army we call that dead space. It’s a potential threat.”

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