There are a growing number of U.S.
military psychologists and medical officials that want to award troops who get
PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) the Purple Heart medal. This is an award
for physical wounds, and replaced earlier recognition (in the form of wound
badges and such) in the 1930s.
The army has,
over the years, developed a set of guidelines for how to recognize the symptoms
of combat fatigue (or PTSD). With all
the attention PTSD has gotten in the media of late, troops are more willing to
seek treatment. But while extreme cases of PTSD are pretty obvious, but it's
the more subtle ones that army wants to catch early. These are easier to cure
if caught early.
problem with giving a medal for it is that, again, except in severe cases, it's
not certain who has it. A physical wound is pretty unambiguous. Even some
mental injuries, like a concussion, can be proven via an x-ray image. And this
is where PTSD is going. Brain activity imaging (mainly via MRI) is a rapidly
growing field, and some types of PTSD can be identified this way. But it's got
a way to go, perhaps 5-10 years, before you can put someone in an MRI (or
whatever) scanner and determine if they have PTSD. That still leaves open the
question of what caused the PTSD. We all suffer from PTSD to a certain extent.
Accidents, a death in the family or other traumatic events can do it. But
eventually, a PTSD "wound" will be as easy, well, almost as easy, to identify
as a bullet wound. Then they may start handing out Purple Hearts for what was
called, after the American Civil War (1861-65), "Irritable Heart," in World War
I "shell shock" and in World War II "combat fatigue."