The central issue in the song “Still in Saigon” is the plight of the American veteran who returns from the war, apparently suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, more commonly referred to as PTSD. One of the central issues with PTSD following the Vietnam War was the fact it was not even considered to be a formal psychological disorder. This is not to say that people thought the veterans were okay, however it was not a diagnosed condition with actual treatments until the 1980s. PTSD was officially a psychological disorder until the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders III (DSM-III) was released in 1980 (Zarembo). After this diagnoses was given, a survey estimated that 31% of Vietnam veterans suffered from PTSD. However, this number may not be accurate to the number of service men and women who suffered, but did not meet the full criteria or were simply never diagnosed.
Two major issues surround PTSD, the first is the high rate for comorbid diagnoses. This refers other mental disorders being diagnosed in conjunction with the PTSD (Zarembo). Common disorders associated with PTSD are major affective disorders, dysthymia, alcohol or substance abuse disorders, anxiety disorders, or personality disorders (Zarembo). The substance abuse and anxiety disorders were especially harmful to the public opinion of veterans following the war. Many people simply viewed veterans as “crazies” or drug addicts while failing to look at the underlying cause (The War’s Costs). Substance abuse was often an attempt by the veterans with PTSD to self-medicate.
Another prominent issue stemming from PTSD is suicide. A 1993 report estimated that 20,000 Vietnam veterans had committed suicide (Paul). However, another estimate by the CEO of a non-profit, Point Man International, placed the number as high as 150,000 (Paul). In reality, the actual number at the time likely fell between these two figures. Two main issues prevent an accurate number from being decided. First, some suicides are ruled as an accident if no note is found (Paul). Second, some corners will rule the death an accident for the sake of the family (Paul). Regardless of what the number truly is, PTSD and suicides that stem from it, were important issues during the era.
The War’s Costs. 4 May 2008. 10 Semptember 2014. <http://web.archive.org/web/20080505035502/http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/database/article_display.cfm?HHID=513>.
Zarembo, Alan. PTSD continues to afflict Vietnam veterans 40 years after the war. 18 August 2014. 10 September 2014.<http://www.latimes.com/nation/nationnow/la-na-nn-ptsd-vietnam-20140808-story.html>.
Paul, Alexander. SUICIDE STATISTICS. 2011. 10 September 2014. <http://www.suicidewall.com/suicide-statistics/>.