Focal Point: 'The War Within'

Posted February 27, 2010 8:28 p.m. EST
Updated September 16, 2014 5:01 p.m. EDT

“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.

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