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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Healing the wounded soul

Congregations can begin by understanding some hurts can't be seen

According to a 2008 RAND Corp. study, Invisible Wounds of War, one in five service members returning from Iraq or Afghanistan report symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder or major depression. In addition, about 19 percent may have experienced a traumatic brain injury, usually the result of powerful roadside bombs.

PhotodiscBut those statistics are likely higher, said Mary Neal Vieten, a Navy Reservist who served more than 10 years as a clinical psychologist in the Navy and is currently president and co-founder of Mission: PTSD.

"Part of the reason ... is because people don't want to admit they are having issues," she said. "If the government is going to say, 'We are going to send off 100 people and more than 80 are going to come back with serious mental health issues,' they will have a hard time getting the public behind that."

After their discharge, it can be difficult for returning veterans to reintegrate into civilian life, said Mary Beth Galey, senior director for services, Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota.

"They are dealing with so much complexity," she said. For example, some veterans find limited employment opportunities in a challenged economy. Some find that their children have gone through developmental stages — or even have been born — while they were deployed.


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October issue

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