By Lydia Kirior

On July 6, 2011 a public forum on the psychological effects of war was held at Des Moines Valley Friends Meeting House. This forum was organized by the AFSC Iowa Peace Building Program as part of its effort to create awareness on the multiple and varied costs of war. The forum focused its evaluation on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Acording to The People's Voice, “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is a psychiatric disorder that can occur following the experience or witnessing of life-threatening events.... People who suffer from PTSD often relive the experience through nightmares and flashbacks, have difficulty sleeping, and feel detached or estranged, and these symptoms can be severe enough and last long enough to significantly impair the person's daily life.”

To examine and explore the lingering effects of PTSD on soldiers returning from combat, selected chapters from the Home Box Office documentary, WARTORN 1861-2010 were viewed at the AFSC forum….

The forum’s panel guests included Mollie Michelfelder, MSW, LISW, specializing with PTSD clients, including returning soldiers; Greg Helle, Veterans For Peace, Vietnam Vet, CPA accountant (retired), author and PTSD survivor; and Bob Kraus, also a combat veteran.

Helle shared his personal struggles with PTSD. The theme most evident in his case was the military and society’s stigma on PTSD. Mollie brought her expertise on the clinical aspects of behavioral health issues, effectively explored the symptoms of PTSD and discussed available treatment.

Kathleen, AFSC Iowa Program Coordinator, acknowledged the attendance of members of the Veteran for Peace. Bob Kraus discussed his homeless veterans project, whose aim is to provide wraparound services to veterans in a “one-stop shop” environment/campus.

From this forum it is clear that the psychological effects of war impact not only those who see combat -- their families likewise are secondarily impacted. Often therapy sessions will include family members in the therapist’s effort to implement a system of care approach to bring the victim of PTSD to a point where they can live a meaningful and productive life.

While this effort to help those who suffer from combat experience are well-meaning and applauded, we want to emphasize the most effective intervention is to deal with the true “source” that initiates PTSD. That source is W-A-R. If we can advocate for peaceful and political resolutions to problems and totally abstain from military and violent responses to disagreements among nations, then PTSD (as it relates to war) will be a non-factor.