Civilians often don't get PTSD help

December 2, 2011 8:14:37 PM PST
Troops returning from war zones go through a rigorous reentry screening to check for signs of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD.

But, there are thousands of civilian contractors returning from Iraq and Afghanistan without any check for mental health problems.

Alice Redding is a computer systems engineer. She has spent more than a year in Iraq and Afghanistan as a civilian contractor setting up servers and computer systems for soldiers.

Redding has flown with the troops into combat zones wearing a flack jack and helmet and has come under fire. Now that's she's back home in Fayetteville, it's emotionally tough.

"I would wake up and realize I'm not there anymore. But it would take me a moment to realize that. And speaking to some of my friends that are retirees from the military, that do have PTSD, they recognize - they say hey you've got a touch of PTSD," she explained.

Redding recalls coming under attack in Afghanistan.

"The last encounter was recently - about three months ago. While I was there, a rocket came. It was in the middle of the day. I was walking to one location and you know it's close when you hear the whistle sound," she said.

But while there is help available for soldiers returning from combat zones, civilians mostly don't get that kind of support.

"We don't have any statistics of who's exactly got Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. We just don't know. We don't know if they're committing violent crimes. We don't know if they're having problems with relationships," said Redding.

Experts says if you're having difficulty sleeping, experiencing nightmares, or having unexplained bursts of anger, you may be showing signs of PTSD and should probably seek professional help quickly - before you harm yourself or someone else.

While some military contractors provide mental health assessments, the majority of civilians who volunteer to head to combat zones are expected to seek their own civilian mental health care.

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