Focal Point: 'The War Within'

Posted February 27, 2010
Updated September 16, 2014

“I wish that I could just had talked to him. I wish that there was something I could have said.”

— Dennis Hefner, whose stepson struggled with PTSD before committing suicide.

Original air date: March 4, 2010

The suicide rate among Army soldiers hit a record high in 2009 and for the first time ever exceeded the rate in the civilian population. Many blame Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. PTSD is an adverse reaction to traumatic events that can cause irritability, anxiety, sleeplessness and depression. It became a formal diagnosis in 1980 and since then new types of medications and psychotherapy have been developed that are effective in treating the disorder. Getting soldiers to seek treatment is a challenge however. Many soldiers fear that others will see them as weak for having PTSD and many fear it will hurt their military careers.

The military, and the Army in particular, is developing new programs to help soldiers with PTSD in light of the increasing suicide rate. The suicides of four soldiers who served together in the 1451st Transportation Company, a North Carolina National Guard unit based in Boone, also got the military’s attention and helped lead to the creation of new initiatives to help members of the National Guard suffering from PTSD. Unlike regular active duty soldiers, members of the Guard return to their hometowns instead of military bases where support services are more readily available.

Focal Point: “The War Within” profiles the case of one of the four men serving in 1451st who committed suicide. It also profiles two other Guard members who served with that soldier and continue to struggle with PTSD. The documentary examines the toll PTSD places on military families and shows the military’s efforts to educate soldiers about PTSD and get help to those who need it.

The War Within Watch: 'The War Within'

Host: Debra Morgan
Writer/Producer: Clay Johnson
Photographer/Editor: Jay Jennings

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  • im4bluedevils Mar 5, 2010

    To D Mo and WRAL:

    One of the most reassuring things is knowing someone cares, and is here to help. Thank you!

    I loved last night’s Focal Point: ‘The War Within’! It was very well presented and informative on the difficult issues we face with PTSD. I felt a deep obligation from Debra Morgan and WRAL to the men and women who have risked life and limb on our behalf.

    But this program wasn’t just the right thing to do. It’s the smart thing to do. This is win, win, win, win. WRAL has the incredible privilege of doing things that make a real difference to real people.

    Never an easy subject to discuss, mental illnesses such as PTSD that’s affecting the lives of millions of people including military veterans. PTSD is making it very difficult for many are so withdrawn and emotionally numb that they are unable to properly engage with their families or society. Some manifest explosive tempers. Where is the light at the end of the trouble?