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Psychologist: Understand Vets "Invisible Wounds"

May 4, 2009

Charleston, WV - West Virginians are increasingly likely to know someone with what Barbara Romberg calls the "invisible wounds" of combat. Romberg is founder and president of Give An Hour, a group that asks mental health professionals to volunteer their time to help veterans.

Veterans Administration statistics indicate vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have much higher rates of divorce, alcoholism, depression and suicide than the rest of the population. Romberg believes most people are happy to help with the complications of post-traumatic stress disorder - and the first thing to understand is how common it is.

"As an employer, as a coworker, as a neighbor - we now have, in our country, 1.9 million people who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. There are serious consequences to being in a war."

Once friends and neighbors understand the situation, she explains, it's easier to work around potential anger and depression, although the problems can last for years. West Virginia not only has a high percentage of military veterans, Romberg says, but many of them served in the National Guard and reserves, and live in small towns - which might make getting help more difficult.

"You have a lot of Guardsmen who come back and go into these rural areas, and there aren't a lot of services available as opposed to people coming back to a base."

Romberg spoke to an annual conference sponsored by the National Association of Social Workers, West Virginia chapter. Information about her organization can be found online, at www.giveanhour.org.


Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV