INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana State Medical Association is working to raise awareness of post-traumatic stress disorder to ensure that returning soldiers receive the help they need.
The group recently distributed information about the disorder to 1,300 primary-care physicians across the state, who experts say are often the first line of defense for troubled veterans.
"The family doctor is going to be more likely to be able to talk to them than anybody else," said Silouan Green, a former Marine who suffered PTSD after a stateside jet crash and now travels the U.S. helping others deal with the condition. "There's a natural fear and cynicism among soldiers' families of the VA."
Camille Pond, who led the Indiana effort to distribute PTSD information to doctors, says medical providers who don't have contact with the military might not have experience with PTSD.
"A whole host of things might bring a patient into the doctor's office, and they need to be able to connect the dots, that this is in response to stress," said Pond, whose husband, Dr. William Pond, is a colonel in the Indiana Air National Guard.
The awareness effort could benefit thousands. Indiana has about 27,000 National Guard members, and statistics estimate that 15 percent to 25 percent of returning soldiers suffer from PTSD.
Many of the symptoms commonly associated with the disorder, such as nightmares, flashbacks and fear of crowds, often pass with time. But those with PTSD may require multiple medications and therapy to help them cope with the condition.
People with the disorder are more likely to recover the sooner their condition is diagnosed and treatment is started, experts say. But diagnosing the disorder can be difficult.
William Pond, a Fort Wayne anesthesiologist, interviews returning Guard members to assess their physical and mental health. Some don't show signs of PTSD until weeks after their return.
"What we found was that we were doing a pretty good job of getting people initially, but after they leave, we felt that we needed to have a better ability to keep track of them," he said. "That's why we wanted to ... make this more of a communitywide approach."
The push could help people like Indiana Air National Guard Maj. David Cox, who spent months wrestling with PTSD symptoms before finally being diagnosed.