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War in Ukraine affecting Nevada's combat veterans suffering from PTSD

Russia Ukraine
P Photo/Vadim Ghirda

Mariya, a local resident, looks for personal items in the rubble of her house, destroyed during fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces in the village of Yasnohorodka, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 30, 2022.

Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for clarity.

With the war in Ukraine about a month old, the images and sounds of battle are being felt especially hard by some Nevada combat veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

State of Nevada contributor and commentator John L. Smith finds that even from a distance, it’s having a big effect on those battling PTSD.

MIKE PREVATT: We’ve heard long about PTSD, about combat veterans and their families. War is terrible. But PTSD goes beyond war. So what is it, exactly?

JOHN L. SMITH: It’s a psychiatric disorder. It occurs with people who've experienced or witnessed traumatic events. That's most closely associated with combat. Traditionally, however, it does transcend that in the case of the battle in Ukraine. That, of course, has stoked a lot of feelings of anxiety, discomfort and trauma in folks who have different varying degrees of post-traumatic stress. There is treatment available.

PREVATT: What are experts in treating PTSD saying about the potential for an uptick due to the ongoing war and around-the-clock coverage.

SMITH: They’re quite focused on it, they realize that there are triggering events that can take place with people who suffer from PTSD, where they will suffer. They'll suffer from more, for instance, depression, or they'll have concerns about going outside, some have even greater concerns about battle, especially coming home to the home front, and all of that.

PREVATT: Have you spoken to any veterans? What have they said?

SMITH: I'm in regular conversation with a couple of veterans who suffer from that kind of stress disorder. You know, and their anxiety levels are certainly higher. That manifests itself in depression, but also in a kind of manic behavior with a couple of them that I'm very aware of.

Most of my information, however, for this report, is coming from a local longtime clinical psychologist named Larry Lyon who works for the Veterans Health Administration. He did a casual inquiry with his colleagues. And they noticed some changes and some increased conversation, not just about battle, but about the stressors that it creates.

PREVATT: For those veterans, how does it impact their lives?

SMITH: It can be something fairly mild, with increased memories that are painful, and not being able to control that depression is something that a lot of the experts in the materials that I've read, that they talk about, that said, that's a real concern.

For more information, click here.


John L. Smith, State of Nevada contributor

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Mike has been a producer for State of Nevada since 2019. He produces — and occasionally hosts — segments covering entertainment, gaming & tourism, sports, health, Nevada’s marijuana industry, and other areas of Nevada life.