Societal Factors and PTSD

In my interview with Dan Daley, he brought up one point in particular which peaked my interest in regards to PTSD, was the statement that “[the Vietnam War] was the first time US servicemen came back to anything less than a hero’s welcome. If the war didn’t sufficiently traumatize them, coming home often did.” After doing some research, I found two studies which examined risk factors for Vietnam veterans faced following the war. One of the listed risk factors was “perceived negative community attitudes at homecoming (Keane, et al. 1985) ( Koenen, et al. 2003).” These attitudes were certainly present. Service men and women were told not to wear their uniforms home because of how they would be treated. Also at the time antiwar demonstrations were very common. Public support for the war decline steadily over time. According to Gallup data, in 1965 25% say sending troops was the wrong decision, by 1971 that percent had increased to 61% (Gallup 2000). This negative perception of the war was shown in other ways as well, such as the movies following the war. Films such as Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket, and Platoon often paint soldiers in less than desirable ways (Pollock 2014). They are shown in scenes to be attacking civilians, using racist terms, or depicted as crazy. This pop culture image also spread these negative feelings.
Another social factor relating to Still in Saigon is that rates of PTSD increase in veterans who feel they cannot discuss the war (Keane, et al. 1985) ( Koenen, et al. 2003). This sentiment was very common following the war as many veterans felt most people “didn’t get it.” For example in the book Working-class War a veteran at antiwar demonstration becomes angry with the demonstrators, not be he disagrees with them but because he feels they don’t understand (Appy 1993). Daley recounts that after the song was released that he received letters from veterans describing their experiences because they now felt it was finally okay to discuss (Pollock 2014). This was in 1982 nearly a decade after the war ended. The negative attitudes and feeling that other would not understand almost certainly played a key role in the massive amount of men in Vietnam who developed PTSD. The fact that such sentiments were less prevalent following the War on Terror and that the PTSD rate was lower for soldiers serving in the Middle East at 11% for veterans of Afghanistan and 20% for Iraq veterans, compared to nearly 31% for Vietnam veterans, shows the societal factors play a large role in the condition (Rothbaum 2009).

Koenen, Karestan C., Jeanne Mager Stellman, Steven D. Stellman, and John F. Sommer Jr. 2003. “Risk Factors for Course of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Among Vietnam Veterans: A 14-Year Follow-Up of American Legionnaires.” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 71 (6): 980-986.
Appy, Christian G. 1993. Working-Class War. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press.
Gallup. 2000. Gallup. Accessed November 3, 2014.
Keane, Terence M., W. Owen Scott, Gary A. Chavoya, John A. Fairbank, and Danuta M. Lamparski. 1985. “Social Support in Vietnam Veterans With Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Comparative Analysis.” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 53 (1): 95-102.
Pollock, Bruce. 2014. Dan Daley-“Still in Saigon”. January 9. Accessed September 8, 2014.
Rothbaum, Dr. Barbara. 2009. “PTSD: A Growing Epidemic.” NIH Medline Plus.

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