"Sheds light on the psychological toll that war takes."
Soldier's Heart: Close-up Today with PTSD in Vietnam Veterans is an interesting and unusual book. Mental health professionals will find it important, not for its contribution to the professional literature on posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but for the light it sheds on the continuing psychological toll that war takes on the soldiers and on their families. The authors, both Vietnam veterans who have struggled with PTSD for many years, wrote this book to explain to families that PTSD is a brain disorder, not a personality flaw.
Soldier's heart is a term that originated during the Civil War, describing an early theory to account for what we now know as the anxiety symptoms of PTSD. It was alternately called "irritable heart," and "disordered heart action" and was believed to be a problem with the circulatory system (Bishop, 1942). The term has recently become popular to use to refer to PTSD. The book's first author, William Schroder, is described on the dust jacket as a writer, businessman, past helicopter pilot infantry officer, and Vietnam veteran whose "own PTSD symptoms and their decades-long effects on his spouse, children, and loved ones compelled him to begin a deeper exploration of and book on the disorder." The second author, Ronald Dawe, is described on the dust jacket as a licensed mental health counselor and executive director of the Palm Beach Institute in West Palm Beach, Florida. His professional interests are in complex trauma and its link to later substance abuse. He is a certified clinical sexologist and a diplomate of the American Board of Sexology. He, too, is a veteran with PTSD, who "served as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam and has subsequently struggled with PTSD for three decades" (dust jacket). In the acknowledgments, he is referred to as "Dr. Dawe"; according to the website for the Palm Beach Institute
In reading this book, one gets the sense that the authors are speaking directly to the loved ones of these veterans, trying to explain their years of suffering and psychological dysfunction.
One contribution of Soldier's Heart lies in its illumination of an important social phenomenon: A number of Vietnam veterans who have suffered from PTSD for many years and who have felt ignored by American society and institutions have formed a supportive community of like-minded people. These veterans draw attention to the lack of care and understanding they received on their return from Vietnam and the continuing inadequacy of available services. They still suffer from the inability of an angry American society to distinguish between an unpopular war and the soldiers who were forced to fight it. In recent years, perhaps because of this pressure, the U.S. government has paid more attention to the problem, developing treatment protocols and establishing the National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder under the Department of Veterans Affairs.
In conclusion, Soldier's Heart will be interesting to psychologists and sociologists examining the problems of veterans and their families living with PTSD over many years, as well as the organizations they have developed to cope. Thanks to the Internet, Vietnam veterans, and now veterans of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, have access to online "communities" that support and encourage them. From reading this book, it seems clear to me that veterans would welcome the ongoing psychological research and professional support of these groups.
Dr. Mary Lindahl,
"Obvious implications for the present and future."
This highly significant and relevant volume focuses on Posttraumatic Stress
Disorder, a devastating but little understood wound suffered by many American
soldiers who served in the Vietnam War. The heart of the book consists of highly
revealing interviews with five Vietnam veterans who relate, in candid and graphic
detail, the impact of the disorder upon their lives and how they attempted to
blunt that impact by resorting to alcohol and drugs. Their return to civilian
life often signaled the beginning of downward spirals marked by inability to
relate to other people, drifting from one job to another, ultimate unemployment
and alienation from their families. The authors are to be commended for placing
this crippling disorder within a meaningful context. The specialist as well
as non-specialist will profit enormously by reading this volume whose contents
have obvious implications for the present and future.
"Gripping stories that will tear your heart."
William Schroder and Ron Dawe take us into the hearts, souls and lives of Vietnam Vets, with gripping stories that will tear your heart and bring you to tears, opening your mind to the emotional devastation of war and to the ongoing needs of such courageous soldiers. Interspersed with sound psychological observations about the development of each soldier's post-traumatic stress syndrome, and a fascinating review of the diagnosis, their stories are brilliantly told -as vivid as seeing a movie - with scenes that bring the stories to life. I beseech everyone to read this book. Be inspired to take some action to insure soldiers get the honor - and treatment - they need and deserve.
Dr. Judy Kuriansky,