The National Alliance on Mental Illness, a mental health advocacy group called on the Defense Department to award Purple Heart Medals for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
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Redefining Military Heroes: Post Traumatic Stress and The Purple Heart

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The National Alliance on Mental Illness, a mental health advocacy group called on the Defense Department to award Purple Heart Medals for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The group urged DoD to recognize those who suffer PTSD or other mental health injuries resulting from combat exposure by awarding the Purple Heart "with the same level of appreciation and recognition as those awarded to warriors with visible wounds."

Arguing that PTSD and other mental health issues such as depression can be war-related injuries, the group said the department has an obligation to honor such affected military personnel.

TROOPS WITH INVISIBLE WOUNDS ARE HEROES

Honoring military PTSD sufferers could help end the stigma that often discourages service members from seeking help when they need it; and that would perhaps reduce the number of military suicides.

The Pentagon in 2009 decided not to award the Purple Heart to troops with PTSD because the disorder can be difficult to diagnose, and symptoms can arise later in life not linked necessarily to any one action or enemy.

The Purple Heart is given specifically to those who receive injuries resulting from enemy engagement requiring treatment by a medical officer. In cases of concussion and mild traumatic brain injury where a service member may not have immediately recognized his or her injury and was not treated by medical personnel, a Purple Heart may be awarded if a medical officer later certifies the injury would have required treatment if a physician was available.

The group's report "Parity for Patriots," said DoD should "forcibly end discrimination associated with invisible wounds of war" by requiring military leaders to focus on reducing stigma associated with mental health treatment and hold them accountable for suicides in their commands.

They asked Veterans Health Administration asked to expand treatment options by using already existing community health networks and private practitioners to "reach out, listen and care."



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