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PTSD affects both veterans and their children
February 4, 2013

SALT LAKE CITY — Recent reports show that efforts to help veterans in need of crisis intervention are working. But what kind of an effect can a veteran's physical or emotional disorders have on their children?

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs recently released its latest findings on veterans and suicide, and there are some trends that indicate progress is being made on the issue.

While the number of American veterans who have died is up from last year, the percentage of veterans who committed suicide have dropped, according to a news release from the department. It indicated the percentage of suicidal people calling the Veterans Crisis Line has dropped, too.

However, many major health problems plague the veteran population. In 2011, more than 476,000 veterans with primary or secondary diagnosis of PTSD received treatment at Department of Veterans Affairs' medical centers and clinics alone, according to the department's website. Issues like PTSD don't stop with the veteran, but affect the entire family.

"Living around that kind of stress is just as hard for kids as it is for adults," said Douglas Goldsmith, executive director of The Children's Center in Salt Lake City.

Douglas regularly hears from veterans who have come home and have developed PTSD. He said he hears about a range of issues these veterans face, from waking up screaming, yelling at their kids more or an increased alcohol dependency.

"Those who see parents with emotional impairments are subjected to parents that may be screaming in the middle of the night," Goldsmith said.

Goldsmith also said it may be hard for kids to understand why their mom or dad came home different than what they remember. If the child develops problems because of their parents' PTSD, it may manifest itself in several different ways. For instance, the child may become less engaged with one parent than the other.

"Parents may see a child have difficulty sleeping," he said. "The child may have changes in appetite."

Goldsmith said parents who want to treat their kids for these problems need to find a counselor that is specifically trained in child trauma.

"It's important that the families receive treatment that is really geared specifically to the issues that are manifesting themselves in that family," Goldsmith said.