Many combat veterans returning from war suffer from physical injuries, but a greater number suffer from injuries invisible to the eye, according to former psychiatrist at the Department of Veterans Affairs Outpatient Clinic in Boston Dr. Jonathan Shay.
Shay, who has worked with veterans for more than 20 years in his former position, is also the author of two books closely examining the psychological damage of war, “Achilles in Vietnam” and “Odysseus in America.”
Shay visited San Diego State on Oct. 4 to talk to professionals who work closely with veterans in a workshop held in the Parma Payne Goodall Alumni Center about the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder.
During the workshop, “PTSD and Moral Injury: What’s the Difference and Does it Matter?” Shay discussed the concept of “moral injury” as a consequence of war and the treatments necessary to heal this type of wound.
“We should be looking at psychological injury in much the same way that a trauma surgeon would look at it,” Shay said.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, PTSD is a mental health disorder that can develop after experiencing a traumatic event such as combat exposure, a serious accident or a terrorist attack.
Shay said referring to PTSD as an illness rather than an injury is stigmatizing and terminology should be changed to help those who are afflicted.
Toward the end of the lecture, Shay urged the professionals in the room to work hard to create a communal and functioning environment in the mental health workplace.
“Self-care is not just something that’s nice to have, it’s an essential success factor,” Shay said. “If the clinicians do not have a trusting clinical team, the work becomes impossibly difficult and almost always will fail.”