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Sept. 12: PTSD, Internet comment boards

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In this Sunday Edition, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) haunts many veterans and their families. KSL's Bruce Lindsay discusses PTSD with a veteran in recovery and a psychologist. Also, the world of anonymous critics on Internet comment boards -- what is the appeal and does it improve the dialog? Hear from a university professor and the general manager of

Segment 1: Solders and post-traumatic stress disorder

How do I start?
An intake session is held weekly, every Tuesday, (except holidays) 11 a.m., building 47 (Outpatient Mental Health), group room 1, at the Salt Lake City, VA. No appointment is necessary. Please bring copy of your DD214.

American combat operations in Iraq are officially over. But during the past nearly nine years of battle, beginning in Afghanistan and then in Iraq, members of the U.S. armed forces have paid a heavy price in lives, in physical injuries, and in wounds that are harder to see -- the psychological wounds of post-traumatic stress disorder. Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran Josh Hansen and Dr. Ashley Greenwell, a local psychologist, discuss the realities, symptoms and treatments of PTSD.

Greenwell is a member of the PTSD clinical team at the George E. Wahlen Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Salt Lake City. She explains PTSD.

"PTSD is a set of symptoms that follows a trauma. So a trauma in a combat setting could be a fire fight, it could be an IED or an improvised explosive device. And those symptoms that follow fall into three categories," explains Greenwell. "One of them is re-experiencing the memory in some kind of distressing way, whether it is nightmares or flashbacks. The second one is avoidance, closing down from relationships, staying away from things that remind you of that upsetting event. And then the third area is hyper arousal, feeling on guard, not sleeping well, feeling irritable or angry. And together that mix can be very painful and difficult to live with."

Do I need help?
Are you or your service member having problems with:
  • Anger and irritability?
  • Isolation from others?
  • Poor sleep?
  • Difficulty relaxing?
  • Trouble in relationships?
  • Changes in alcohol use?
  • Difficulty keeping a job?
  • Can't get military experiences out of your mind?
  • Thoughts of harming yourself or others?

Hansen is one of the thousands of Utahns who has served abroad in a combat zone in the past nine years. He served in Iraq traveling ahead of the convoys, sniffing out IEDs. Since returning home he has battled PTSD in addition to recovering from a traumatic brain injury.

"I was an IED hunter. We'd go find the improvised explosive devices on the roads, the number one killer in Iraq. And I would lead the Marines into their missions and I would locate the bombs on the roads and remove them," describes Hansen. "I've been hit eight times and I tried to take it on as long as I could, but the brain started failing on me."

He realized he suffered from PTSD when he found himself avoiding his family and had difficulty sleeping.

"In my house I have my own little place where I could just be away from the family. I'd start separating myself. I'd get angry really easy and quick. And my sleeping has been horrible, with night sweats and nightmares," Hansen says. "And the wife could definitely tell there were issues going on from before and after the war."

PTSD in veterans is not a new problem, but Greenwell says the treatment is better than ever. Effected soldiers need to get help.

"A lot of times these veterans and these soldiers are trained to suck it up and soldier on, to really not feel that pain, not that emotional pain. Something that you might need in combat, and sometimes that will transfer here, this idea of 'If I just tough it out it's going to go away on its own.' But one of the things we know is if it's lasted for about 12 months or longer, chances are that without treatment it's not just going to go away," she says.

Hansen says the VA has provided great help for all the injuries he sustained. He attends group sessions with counselors.

"I really look forward to the group, because they can relate with you, where civilians have a harder time," says Hansen. "So with a soldier who has been through the same thing, you can help each other out."

He wants soldiers to reach out and get treatment and help with PTSD.

"Please get the help," Hansen pleads. "I just recently lost one of my soldiers to suicide and he left behind two kids and a wife and a loving family. We really need to get the soldiers in and get the help. Suicide is not the answer."

Segment 2: Internet comment boards

In the unregulated realm of the World Wide Web, what happens when free speech collides with old standards of civility?

Back in the day, when you read the newspaper and found something in it that flipped your switch, you could yell at the family, kick the dog or toss the paper across the room. If it was something you saw or heard on the TV news, you could shout back at the set. But now, with the Internet and with newspapers and TV giving you as much access to it as they have, you can have your conniption in public and then duke it out with whoever disagrees with you.

Dr. Robert Gehl, professor of communication at the University of Utah, and Brett Atkinson, general manager of, discuss the appeal of Internet comment boards.

"We view it as a great way to interact with our users. It is an expectation on the Internet today that users and consumers have the ability to go in and interact with the content. Typically, if a website does not provide comment boards, users will find another outlet," says Atkinson. "So for us, we do want to interact with our users, we do want to hear what they think of the products we produce."

We do want to interact with our users, we do want to hear what they think of the products we produce.

–Brett Atkinson

Atkinson explains that KSL has a team of employed moderators but relied heavily on the online community.

The culture of comment boards came from the world of blogs, explains Gehl. He agrees it is expected today and believed it contributes to society.

"I'll give you a really good example and that's Wikipedia. So here's a site that's famous for allowing anybody to go on and edit even anonymously, and yet they've produced over 3 million articles. Some of them, maybe not so good, but studies have shown they are just as good as other encyclopedias. And so you have a situation where anonymous people can get together and produce something of incredible value, all by interacting online," explains Gehl.

Atkinson says is trying to encourage a meaningful and civil dialogue, but is it frustrating when the discussion turns hateful. It is difficult to walk the fine line between encouraging dialogue and controlling the discussion.

Segment 3: Coming up on Sunday Edition

Next week on Sunday Edition, women who lose the affection of their husbands to pornography. Is it an addiction? Or is that just an excuse?

And through the month of October, turn to Sunday Edition for conversations with candidates for major political office in Utah.

  • Oct. 3: 3rd Congressional District candidates
  • Oct. 10: 1st Congressional District candidates
  • Oct. 17: Utah gubernatorial race
  • Oct. 24: U.S. Senate race
  • Oct. 31: 2nd Congressional District candidates

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