I appreciated reading about the challenges facing local American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars chapters (American Legion and VFW Chapters Soldier On, May 28). As a psychologist, I found it interesting that the reduction in membership that took place in the 1970s coincided with the American Psychiatric Association’s attempts to standardize post-traumatic stress disorder as a diagnosis.
Although PTSD had been observed for many decades (it was typically called “war neurosis” or “shell shock”), throughout the 1970s mental health researchers sought to standardize it as a diagnosis, which greatly increased the chances that a clinician or institution would agree on its presence in a patient. Once that happened, clinical and research interest in veterans and their psychology burgeoned, decreasing ignorance of and stigma about PTSD.
I can imagine there were many years where the only people who could understand the trauma experienced by veterans were other veterans, and I felt more appreciation for the loneliness and isolation many vets probably suffered before organized efforts to name, accept and treat this difficult post-combat disability. I’m so glad that the American Legion and VFW were places where vets could gather, be seen and understood. Thank you to those who have served or continue to do so.
Christine Foertsch, Garrison