Virtual reality to the rescue. Counselors recommend exposure therapy - immersing returning soldiers with PTSD in controlled-level simulations of traumatic environments - and that means basically video games in the future. It makes sense. The newest generation of soldiers grew up with video games but they didn't grow up speaking to counselors so the comfort level would likelt higher. One test in a recent study(1) claimed an 80 percent reduction in anxiety and depressive symptoms.
When I was in basic training we had to undergo live-fire exercises, where bullets are shooting above you while you navigate an obstacle course, but we knew getting shot would lead to some pretty angry letters from our parents, so we weren't all that scared, and combat circumstances are much different - terrorists don't care what our parents think - so it may not be that virtual reality exposure therapy in advance will help reduce PTSD (and it's diagnosed a lot more today, so it could be better diagnosed or over-diagnosed, hard to say) but because a therapist (or the military) can control the emotional intensity, multi-sensory cues designed to evoke trauma might help mentally inoculate soldiers against PTSD.
Peace also helps. Sometimes people thank me for doing time in the military and I have to sheepishly note it was much different then. Reagan was president so we played a lot of golf. Everyone knew he would go after them.
(1) Rizzo A et al (2011). Virtual reality goes to war: a brief review of the future of military behavioral healthcare. Journal of Clinical Psychology in Medical Settings; DOI 10.1007/s10880-011-9247-2
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