June 1, 2012  

Call it PTSI

TO RETIRED GEN. PETER CHIARELLI for his battle to get America’s psychiatric community to rename a signature injury of the recent wars. Instead of post-traumatic stress disorder, Chiarelli wants to call it post-traumatic stress injury — a seemingly minor change that would make a big difference for the up-to-40 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans who show the symptoms.

The former Army vice chief, an outspoken advocate of mental health care for troops and veterans, argues that the word “disorder” plays into the pervasive stigma that still keeps many troops from seeking mental health treatment for fear of being seen as weak.

Chiarelli also insists it’s more than semantics; research shows PTSD produces measurable changes in the brain. He says that makes the condition every bit as physical as shrapnel in a leg — and many troops who resist admitting to a “disorder” would be more willing to come forward to be treated for an “injury.”

If a simple one-word name change can result in more combat troops seeking treatment, how can anyone stand in the way?