• Michael Savage’s Attacks on Military with PTSD: Ignorant and Damaging

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    One of the passions that drives colleague Wanda Sanchez and me in our work with PTSDPerspectives.org is our desire to help eradicate the massive misunderstanding about mental illness and PTSD in our nation. We launched our blog and our consulting in an effort to help people understand what PTSD is and what it is not.

    Voice of Aggression

    Recently, conservative radio host Michael Savage made a series of remarks about Americans with mental illness and the medical community that works to help them. The host announced that he is “sick and tired of everyone with their complaints about PTSD and depression,” stating that it’s a sign of a “weak, sick, broken nation.”

    Savage recommended that people with PTSD “focus on the good things in your life.” Savage says he has “no sympathy for suicides” and sees them as “an act of cowardliness” and “aggression.”

    Having just spent my weekend working with a group of women struggling with PTSD and its various symptoms, I found Savage’s comments particularly offensive in an manner that can only indicate ignorance of the issue or an unwillingness to learn.

    Furthermore, Savage calls veterans who seek help for PTSD, “weak and narcissistic.” During his broadcast, he went on to attack those in the U.S. military who suffer with PTSD.

    The Truth about Trauma

    My point is not so much with Michael Savage as an individual, but with the fact that his ignorance represents the attitude of an alarming segment of the population that does not understand the biological, chemical, and scientific facts about PTSD.

    In her blog The Junk Science Behind Michael Savage’s Attacks on Military with PTSD,  Lisa Reed presents the simple biology behind PTSD:

    • PTSD isn’t a sad feeling, and it isn’t a choice. It causes physical, biological, chemical changes to the brain.
    • Acute stress affects three different parts of the brain: the hippocampus, responsible for memory; the amygdala, responsible for emotions such as fear and anxiety; and the prefrontal cortex, responsible for decision-making, problem-solving, and social behavior.
    • According to J. Douglas Bremner, MD, researcher, professor, and psychiatry and radiology at the Emory University School of Medicine, in Atlanta, GA, stress results in acute and chronic changes in neurochemical systems and specific brain regions, which result in longterm changes in brain “circuits,” involved in the stress response.
    • According to Dr. Bremner, studies in PTSD are consistent with changes in cognition and brain structure. Multiple studies have demonstrated verbal declarative memory deficits in PTSD.
    • Additionally, according to author Reed, in a 2012 survey by Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, 76 percent of veteran respondents who said they didn’t seek care for a mental health injury either did so because they thought it could hurt their career or because they didn’t want their peers to look down on them. This can be particularly true for service members who are afraid they could lose their security clearances.

    I recommend you read Reed’s entire article for a more complete explanation of military efforts to assist those in their ranks who has suffered with PTSD.

    The Reality of Brain Illness

    PTSD affects more than 5.2 million Americans. Approximately 10% of women will struggle with PTSD in her lifetime. Twenty-five percent of those who experience heart attacks will experience PTSD. For cities like Atlanta, Chicago, New York, and Washington, DC, areas of the inner city are experiencing higher rates of PTSD than for members of the military returning from Afghanistan.

    Denying the reality of brain illness is like trying to deny the reality of germs because you don’t want to believe they exist. Your opinion, Mr. Savage, is archaic and inconsistent with the science of the brain. Unfortunately, it is also dangerous because it encourages people to put their health at risk by ignoring real illness with real symptoms based on real biology and chemistry.

    As individuals who invest our lives helping people understand the truth about trauma and seek wellness, we are disappointed by Michael Savage’s lack of compassion and basic understanding of health issues. Shame on you for perpetuating outdated and biased medical myths.

    And shame on you for attacking the men and women of our military who fought for your freedom to spew ignorance on the airwaves.


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