Soldiers' Mental Health
In the conference today, it was discussed that thirty-five percent of people who return from Iraq seek mental help within the first year. Numbers can be sobering, but they came as no surprise to Barbara Schneider, the mother of a Marine.
"You know, I'm excited, I'm glad they're home. The expectation would be that you go back to your normal life, and going back to doing things as they were done before, and have the same relationships. And that's just not the case,"said Schneider.
Schneider's son Stephen has seen two tours of duty with the Marine Corps. After his first homecoming, everyday events had the potential to take Stephen by surprise.
"We walked into a restaurant which had a buffet set up. And he just stopped. He stopped in the doorway of the restaraunt and just looked and was just amazed with the array of food that was on the buffet," said Schneider.
Even something as simple as driving under an overpass can be a challenge for a soldier who's been away for months or even years on tour. It's easy to see an enemy in anything. A car driving by might be an IED, or an innocent bystander could be waiting to hurl a grenade. Doctors gathered to learn from each other how best to treat post traumatic stress disorder, and other problems facing veterans.
"VA Hospital has programs. Military has programs. University has programs. Other agencies have programs," said Dr. Arshad Husain, conference director.
Even without the options families have available, Schneider knows from experience that nothing could outweigh the joy of having Stephen home.
"I think we were a strong family before, but the bonds that are created are so tremendously strong from having gone through something like this together, that we'll always be close," said Schneider.
Schneider says the Columbia Military Family Support Group has been a great help in understanding her son's life in the Marines. The Columbia Military Family Support Group meets the second Wednesday and fourth Monday of every month. E-mail Pat Wilson for details at firstname.lastname@example.org
The conference will start it's final day at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Holiday Inn Select Executive Center in Columbia.