As I read through recent stories about military veterans one thing has crystallized for me: the relentless focus on injuries, PTSD, TBI and the soldier's and veteran's general distress.
Based solely on the media's portrayal of returning soldiers and veterans one would believe them all to be fragile individuals whose lives may shatter at the slightest additional trauma. However, the vast majority of soldiers return healthy and capable, even if they are forever changed by their experience serving. That is to say, we seem to live in a world where the afflictions of soldiers are covered in the media like airplane crashes, rather than car accidents:
Page-one coverage of airplane accidents was sixty times greater than reporting on HIV/AIDs; fifteen hundred times greater than auto hazards; and six thousand times greater than cancer, the second leading killer in America after heart disease.To be sure, PTSD, TBI, amputations, automobile accidents, plane crashes, and cancer deaths are all very real and very tragic but it's long past due that we consider the consequences of our relentless focus on the those afflicted by war because they are real as well.
While the media's predilection for rare and extraordinary stories has been well documented what's more important than the coverage itself is the nature of the coverage. For example: this October 2010 Washington Post article, Traumatic brain injury leaves an often-invisible, life-altering wound. This article is typical for its genre, coming in at nearly 3,000 words, yet devoting only a few sentences to any sort of wider context. We are told the raw number of diagnoses of TBI since 2000, then given another, larger, number from a RAND corporation study. Completely missing is any sense of scale. Do those 180,000 (or is it 300,000?) soldiers represent 1%, 10%, or 90% of individuals at-risk for TBI?