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The Rosalynn Carter Fellowships For Mental Health Journalism 2008-2009

Kelly Kennedy
Times News Service
Alexandria, VA

TOPIC: Produce a series of articles exploring the stigma associated with post-traumatic stress disorder and what can be done to treat and prevent the illness in returning troops from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Special Report: Living with PTSD

Journalist and Carter Center Fellow Kelly Kennedy Offers an Inside Look at the Effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder on Military Families (link no longer available)
During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, embedded journalists offered readers and viewers an inside look at the military's day-to-day operations. Kelly Kennedy, a reporter with Gannett's Army Times, was one of them.

They Fought for Each Other
Charlie 1-26 confronted one of the worst neighborhoods in Baghdad and lost more men than any battalion since Vietnam. Based on "Blood Brothers", the Michael Kelly Award-nominated series that ran in Army Times, this is the remarkable story of a courageous military unit that sacrificed their lives to change Adhamiya, Iraq, from a lawless town where insurgents roamed freely, to a secure neighborhood with open storefronts and a safe populace.

PTSD Victim Booted for 'Misconduct'
After serving two tours in Iraq - tours filled with killing enemy combatants and watching close friends die - Sgt. Adam Boyle, 27, returned home expecting the Army to take care of him. Instead, service member advocates and Boyle's mother say his chain of command in the 3rd Psychological Operations Battalion at Fort Bragg, N.C., worked to end his military career at the first sign of weakness.

Mental Health Evacuations Spike in War Zones 
More than 10 percent of medical evacuations from Iraq and Afghanistan over the past eight years have been for mental health reasons. From October 2001 to September 2009, 5,480 troops were flown back to the U.S. or to Germany due to "mental disorders," according to the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center.  

Thousands of PTSD Vets May Get Benefits Boost (link no longer available)
Military officials have agreed to pay potentially millions of dollars to service members who were medically retired for post-traumatic stress disorder with disability ratings of less than 50 percent. According to federal law, the military is required to give anyone whose PTSD is bad enough to warrant discharge a rating of at least 50 percent - a level that qualifies them for lifetime medical treatment for the veteran and his family, as well as monthly tax-free retirement payments if the rating is combat-related.

Navy Attempted Suicide Rate Nearly Three Percent (link no longer available)
Sailors attempted to commit suicide at rates significantly higher than the other services in 2008, according to a recent Defense Department-sponsored survey of service members. The Navy's attempted suicide rate - at 2.8 percent, or roughly 1 in every 35 sailors - was three times higher than in the previous survey, conducted in 2005.

War's "Signature" Wound: Traumatic Brain Injuries Hard to Spot
Sitting in a fast-food restaurant near Fort Belvoir, Va., Army Master Sgt. José Santiago, his knee bouncing up and down, asked to switch to another table. "Since I got back, I don't like to be around dirty things," he said, wiping a wet spot from the new table with a napkin.

The Advance Copy (link no longer available) 
In a barracks in Germany, an infantry soldier reads a chapter or two from the advance copy of a book about his experiences in Iraq, and then, unable to process more at that moment, he passes it on to the next guy. Who reads a chapter or two, and then, after a couple of nights of tears and laughter and memories, shoves it away to the next soldier.

Telling the Story of "The Hardest Hit Unit in Iraq"
Journalist Kelly Kennedy embedded with Charlie Company's 26th Infantry Regiment for several months in 2007. She spent hours with the soldiers out on patrol, and now relates their worst and best days in her new book, They Fought For Each Other: The Triumph and Tragedy of the Hardest Hit Unit in Iraq.

Kelly Kennedy Twitter

PTSD Wrenches Service Member's Heart, Home
Sgt. Loyd Sawyer joined the Army to bring honor to death. For years, he had worked as a funeral home director. His children learned that death was part of the normal cycle of life - that it's good to mourn for a loved one and there was no reason to fear the bodies their daddy embalmed in a workroom of their home.

Study Links Weak Immune Systems, PTSD 
A study shows that there may be a reason that those with chronic post-traumatic stress disorder deal with more physical health issues as they age: Their immune system has been compromised. The study is yet more evidence to support the idea that people with PTSD go through chemical changes after a psychological injury.

Horrors of the War Hit Home (link no longer available)
"Only On The Web": Kelly Kennedy, a health reporter for Army Times, speaks with CBS Investigative Unit about what it takes to trigger PTSD.

Vets Can Lead Fight on Mental Health Stigma 
As Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., introduced former first lady Rosalynn Carter and her new book about mental health care, he predicted the people who will do the most to improve mental health care and reduce the stigma of getting that care across the nation: veterans. At the Library of Congress Wednesday, Kennedy spoke of the "signature injuries" of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan - post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury - and how veterans talking about and combating stigma for those injuries could normalize mental health issues throughout the country.

VA Adds $2 Million for PTSD Center (link no longer available)
After a series of congressional hearings showed that gaps remain in mental health care for veterans, the Veterans Affairs Department announced Friday it is allocating an additional $2 million to the National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. A recent Rand Corp. study found that more than 300,000 combat veterans suffer from PTSD or major depression - a number that mirrors the Defense Department's own studies.

Purple heart for PTSD? 
A quick question tossed at Defense Secretary Robert Gates - Should veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder receive the Purple Heart? - has created a maelstrom in the blogosphere. It seems the reasoning behind the idea - to lessen the stigma of mental health disorders - also works against the proposition

Studies Find Breakthrough in PTSD Treatment (link no longer available)
Two new studies seem to provide more evidence that post-traumatic stress disorder is a chemical change in the brain caused by trauma - and that it might be possible to diagnose, treat and predict which troops are most susceptible to it using brain scans or blood tests. In one study, Christine Marx of the Duke University Medical Center and Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center wondered why PTSD, depression, and pain often occur together.

Specialists, Patients Critical of PTSD Care (link no longer available)
Experts told the House Veterans' Affairs Committee that reliable methods exist to immediately diagnose and treat post-traumatic stress disorder - but they're not used. At a May 16 hearing, the experts predicted a future filled with loneliness, health complications and societal breakdowns such as divorce, substance abuse or homelessness for veterans with PTSD if the nation does not address the issue now.

Soldier Whose Photo Touched Many Dies in NC (link no longer available)
During the first week of the war in Iraq in 2003, a Military Times photographer captured the image of Army Pfc. Joseph Patrick Dwyer as he raced through a battle zone clutching a tiny Iraqi boy named Ali. "Doc" Dwyer's concerned face appeared on the pages of newspapers across the country. Dwyer, 31, died June 28 in Pinehurst, N.C., after years of struggling with mental disorders.

PTSD Victims No Longer Need to Prove Trauma
The Veterans Affairs Department has dumped a policy requiring combat vets to verify in writing that they have witnessed or experienced a traumatic event before filing a claim for post-traumatic stress disorder, said the chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee. "This change provides a fairer process for veterans with service-connected PTSD," Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, said in a written statement. It "leaves claim adjudicators more time to devote to reducing the staggering backlog of veterans' claims."

CBS Reporter Lara Logan Describes Sexual Attacks
Two months after a brutal attack during the protests in Cairo, CBS reporter Lara Logan says "there was no doubt in my mind that I was in the process of dying." And despite the horrific ordeal, Logan plans to return to reporting in trouble spots. "I am so much stronger," she says in a release from CBS News, marking her first public statements since the repeated sexual attacks by a mob in Cairo.

From Past Tragedies, a Legacy of Resilience; Japan Has Learned Painful Lessons over a Century 
Each hour seems to bring a new number of the dead or missing since a record-breaking earthquake shifted the Earth on its axis and left Japan devastated. After the Japanese faced swaying buildings, shattered windows and a rush of water that swept homes off their foundations, they learned of nuclear reactors flirting with a meltdown.

Study: Female Vets Less Likely to Abuse Drugs (link no longer available)
A recent study found that female veterans are much less likely to abuse drugs, cigarettes or alcohol than male veterans. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 23 percent of female veterans have downed five or more alcoholic beverages in one sitting in the past month, compared to 43 percent of male veterans in the same age group, 20 to 39.

Study: Calif. Mental Patients Force to Wait Past Limit (link no longer available)
Mental health patients in California are often forced to wait for care beyond the 10-day limit required by state law, which is a troubling sign for the 2010 federal health care law's requirement to treat mental health patients in the same way as those suffering from other ailments, a survey of providers shows.

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