post traumatic stress disorder

Derek Flood 11-20-2012
Silhouette of U.S. soldier, © Oleg Zabielin /

Silhouette of U.S. soldier, © Oleg Zabielin /

A 10-year-old boy holding a grenade approaches a group of soldiers. He does not respond to their shouts. One shoots him with his M-16 and the boy crumbles to the ground, dead.

Did he have a choice? It was do or die, kill or be killed. Still he killed a little boy, and those images still haunt him.

This is a classic example of psychological trauma: A person is put in horrific life-threatening situation where they do not feel they have control. That's the situation he found himself in. It was a no-win scenario — kill a little boy or have you and your friends all die.

Soldier suicides have reached epidemic numbers. As the AP reports, More soldiers are taking their own lives than are falling in battle. Add on top of that, the many who suffer from PTSD, and who as a result find themselves estranged from their home, their loved ones, and indeed from themselves.

Fleeing a tragic civil war, almost one million refugees from El Salvador live silently in our midst. Many have mental problems rising from their experiences at home: repression, terrorism, and outright combat. What follows is an account of one refugee's story, changed only in minor details to protect her identity. A similar story could be told by almost any one of the million refugees. --B.B.Z.