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Military & Veterans' Issues

Peer-To-Peer Counselor Talks About Living With PTSD, A Soldier's "New Normal"

U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Ken Scar, 7th MPAD
Soldiers at Fort Hood present colors on Feb. 12, 2014. https://www.flickr.com/photos/forthood/12505735923/

Sharing his insights on the Fort Hood shooting, a peer-to-peer counselor who specializes and also suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder said the biggest obstacle for soldiers suffering from PTSD is pride.   

Craig Lacey served in the Army for 23 years and experienced combat firsthand, coming home where he was eventually diagnosed with PTSD. He said soldiers coming back no longer know what normal is; they have a new definition of the term.

"For those of us that make it back we have to start over," Lacey said. "It's an adjustment phase and we never know what normal is because over there you’re on an adrenaline rush and you’re invincible, so when we come back we are same because that’s my new normal.”

According to the Department of Veteran Affairs' National Center For PTSD, the mental condition occurs in up to 20 percent of veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

Army Spc. Ivan Lopez, who has been identified as yesterday's shooter and served in Iraq, was undergoing psychiatric treatment and was in the process of being evaluated for PTSD. Lacey, who works with soldiers with PTSD, said pride is one of the biggest obstacles.

“A soldier’s pride kills a lot of soldiers because we don’t want anyone to look at us as a label,” Lacey said.

He said was treated differently, even by mental health professionals, until he joined a peer-to-peer group of fellow soldiers suffering from the condition. Lacey said until the Department of Defense changes how we evaluate soldiers for PTSD, events like the Fort Hood shooting will become more common.

"And until we admit we need help you’re going to see a whole lot more suicides, you’re going to see what we saw today," Lacey said. "And it’s going to continue until someone puts a stop to it and says, 'Hey look, when you come back from combat, we need to mentally evaluate you.' "

Lacey said PTSD doesn’t give soldiers an excuse for violent acts but said he believes the most effective solution for PTSD is soldiers talking to soldiers.