Health & Fitness | September 18, 2017 11:36 am

VA Worried PBS’ New Ken Burns Documentary on Vietnam Will Trigger Vets’ PTSD

Network started airing Ken Burns' 10-part series Sunday night, but VA and PBS have come prepared.

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is a sinister byproduct of war; it affects countless veterans, sometimes long after their service has been completed. And it has likely led to the staggeringly high suicide rate—22 men and women per day—among vets these days.

Although it may make its own appearance in PBS’ new 10-episode Vietnam War documentary, which began airing last night and is produced by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, PTSD could rear its ugly head for some veterans who choose to watch the series.

According to Texas Public Radio (TPR), some caregivers at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs say the film’s graphic, stress-inducing content could trigger PTSD episodes among its audience of veterans. “Some are going to watch it. Few will,” Henry Peterson, a chaplain at the Department of Veterans Affairs in San Diego, told TPR. “It could bring up some memories they that don’t want to deal with. …It could bring up some memories they may need to deal with.”

Per VA statistics, about 15 percent of Vietnam veterans suffer from PTSD—and about 30 percent have experienced it in their lifetime.

VA psychologist Tina Mayes, on the other hand, told TPR that PTSD can be triggered by just about anything—a sound, smell, news report. That said, Mayes noted that “… the majority of veterans that I work with, when their symptoms are high, they’re actively avoiding any media.”

Thankfully, PBS and the VA have partnered to provide support services to any veteran—from the Vietnam era or any other, for that matter—to cope with whatever psychological trauma the documentary may dredge up. These include a crisis hotline, as well as one where veterans can simply connect with other veterans in need.

As TPR notes, the VA has offered similar PTSD outreach services in the past, when films like Saving Private Ryan premiered in theaters.