Stress at war and at home

Updated: 10:24 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 24, 2009
Published: 10:21 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 24, 2009

For some active-duty service members and veterans, the holidays aren’t about Christmas parties and gift giving. For them, the holidays can spark flare-ups of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder and make adjusting after tours of Iraq and Afghanistan more difficult, mental health counselors in Central Texas say. Maxine Trent, a counselor and coordinator of the Homefront Project at Scott & White Healthcare’s Killeen clinic, said she has seen the stress emerge as thousands of soldiers from Fort Hood’s 1st Cavalry Division return in the midst of the holiday frenzy after a year in Iraq. “Families are extremely excited when they get their service member back, but service members most of the time are needing as much downtime as possible,” she said. “This is a busy time of year … but it usually takes six weeks or more for the body to reset itself after combat.”  Trent said she advises military families to try to manage their expectations during the holidays. She said soldiers need time and space as their neurobiology adjusts from combat to home life. Her advice during these weeks is a takeoff on an old Christmas song: “Let it go, let it go, let it go.”  “It’s a transitional time anyway, and putting the holidays on top of it, you might have enough stress to boil over,” she said. “Most families are real educated about the deployment cycle and recognize what to expect, but during the holidays, it can be easy to forget we’re doing reintegration on top of the holidays.”


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