"I was having nightmares and flashbacks from Iraq, but I figured a nightmare here or there was normal. To get rid of the nightmares and flashbacks, I used alcohol - lots of alcohol," said Staff Sgt. Megan Krause. "But I didn't think drinking was wrong, since I was a college student at the time. I was drinking a bottle of wine in the evening just to get to sleep and used college as an excuse to hide my problems. I just wrote it off."
Krause, now 29, had left Iraq in July 2006 after serving as a medic for more than four years. The next month, she was a full-time student at Penn State University. As graduation neared two and a half years later, she experienced some personal issues - her father had lost his job, her brother and sister-in-law had deployed, and she was struggling to find a job associated with her degree. The pressure caused the signs of post-traumatic stress disorder to appear.
Her friends, family and fellow soldiers noticed the situation and confronted Krause, but she didn't get help. Then a night of drinking brought her problem into the open. After the bars had closed, she was outside talking with friends and a truck backfired. Krause instinctively started running across campus until she got to her apartment, where she found a light on.
"I didn't remember leaving a light on, so I called the State College police," said Krause. "I told them that someone needed to come and check my apartment, because I thought terrorists were there waiting for me."
Shortly thereafter, a police car and an ambulance arrived. She finally agreed to have her roommate drive her to the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Altoona, Pa. She spent three days in the hospital, where she talked with psychiatrists, psychologists and care coordinators. She left feeling better.
Post-traumatic stress disorder is a problem that some veterans face. According to Veterans Affairs statistics, Centre County has reported 12 documented cases of major depressive disorders and 36 documented cases of post-traumatic stress disorder, based on a December 2011 study of Iraq-era veterans.
To help local veteran groups, community members and healthcare professionals learn how to help soldiers with psychological healthcare needs, the Family Medicine Seminar Series will sponsor a presentation entitled, "Invisible Wounds of War: Meeting the Psychological Health Needs for Returning Warriors," on Thursday, February 16.
William Brim, PsyD, deputy director of the Center for Deployment Psychology, and an associate professor at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, will present the seminar. The talk is part of the Family Medicine Seminar Series sponsored by Mount Nittany Medical Center in collaboration with Penn State College of Medicine's Department of Family and Community Medicine.
"The Family Medicine Seminar Series presents timely and interesting topics that we feel can benefit both healthcare professionals and community members," said Michael Flanagan, MD, vice-chair of Family and Community Medicine for the Penn State Hershey Medical Group in State College.
"I was able to get the help I needed because the people in my life were aware of the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, and the healthcare professionals I saw were able to provide me with the best care and advice to treat it," said Krause. "I feel that it's crucial to have the tools like seminars available to help community members, their friends and family, and healthcare professionals learn more about these issues and how they can help, so we can ensure the entire community has the support they need."
Each Family Medicine Seminar Series is held in the Galen and Nancy Dreibelbis Auditorium, Entrance D of Mount Nittany Medical Center, State College. The presentation will begin with a buffet dinner at 6:00 pm, followed by the evening's lecture at 6:30 pm. These activities have been approved for American Medical Association (AMA) category 1 credit, as well as for PA State Nursing Association continuing education credit. Most presentations also satisfy the requirements for Patient Safety credit.
The lecture is free, but some fees apply for class credit. To register, or for more information on this seminar or upcoming seminars, call 814.234.6738, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Upcoming Family Medicine Seminar Series:
February 16: Invisible Wounds of War: Meeting the Psychological Health Needs for Returning Warriors
Thursday, March 15: A New Era of Primary Care for Back and Neck Pain
Thursday, April 19: Calorie Restriction and Health
Thursday, May 17: Child Sexual Abuse