NY Times: No help for war contractors on PTSD

Yesterday, the New York Times reported that the war in Iraq can be expected to produce huge numbers of psychological casualties. 

Photo: National Archives

Worse still, as a result of the use of non-military contractors, most of these will not be supported by the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs.

A vast army of contractors — up to 126,000 Americans, Iraqis and other foreigners — is working for the United States government in Iraq. Many work side-by-side with soldiers and are exposed to the same dangers, but mostly they must fend for themselves in navigating the civilian health system when they come back to the United States.

With no widespread screening, many workers are not identified as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or other problems, mental health experts and contractors say. And, they add, the quality of treatment for other problems can vary widely because of limited civilian expertise in combat-related disorders.

To offer what little support we can, and give interested readers somewhere to start in preparing a historically-informed response, some histories of PTSD have been provided below.

  • Ben-Ezra, M.  (2004).  Trauma in antiquity: 4000 year old post-traumatic reactions?  Stress and Health, 20(3), 121-125.
  • Engel Jr., C. C.  (2004).  Post-War Syndromes: Illustrating the Impact of the Social Psyche on Notions of Risk, Responsibility, Reason, and Remedy.  Journal of the American Academy of Psychoanalysis and Dynamic Psychiatry, 32(2), 321-334.
  • Hart, O., Brown, P., & Kolk, B. A.  (1989).  Pierre Janet’s treatment of post-traumatic stress.  [Special Section: Pierre Janet’s Contributions To Traumatic Stress Theory And Research].  Journal of Traumatic Stress, 2(4), 379-395.
  • Kolk, B. A., Brown, P., & Hart, O.  (1989).  Pierre Janet on post-traumatic stress [Special Section: Pierre Janet’s Contributions To Traumatic Stress Theory And Research].  Journal of Traumatic Stress, 2(4), 365-378.
  • Nadler, A.  (2001).  The victim and the psychologist: Changing perceptions of Israeli Holocaust survivors by the mental health community in the past 50 years.  History of psychology, 4(2), 159-181.
  • Rechtman, R.  (2006).  The Survivor’s Paradox: Psychological Consequences of the Khmer Rouge Rhetoric of Extermination.  Anthropology & Medicine, 13(1), 1-11.
  • Weisæth, L.  (2004).  The European History of Psychotraumatology.  Journal of Traumatic Stress, 15(6), 443-452.


About Jeremy Burman

Jeremy Trevelyan Burman is a senior doctoral student in York University’s Department of Psychology, specializing in the history of developmental psychology and its theory (especially that pertaining to Jean Piaget). Prior to returning to academia, he was a producer at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.