Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Vietnam Veterans
The power of the human brain is a mystery of science. For example, while certain parts of the brain are well known to control certain bodily functions, the brain’s memory capacity is just now being discovered. Scientists believe that only a small fraction of the brain is actually used, and its potential power is much greater than one may expect or believe. Its ability to view and store information is still not totally understood by scientists today. This causes a special problem in the treatment certain mental illnesses such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, is a reaction to a traumatic event in which death, serious injury, or the threat of either is present. The most common occurrence of this illness is among veterans of war, and it is very common among those who served in Vietnam. Vietnam veterans who suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and do not receive medical treatment are at a high risk of suicide and other horrible demises. They become despondent and hard to talk to. It is as if the sufferers of PTSD are in a different reality. The traumatic events play back in their mind and they have a tough time relating with people.
Louise Erdrich illustrates this in “The Red Convertible.” The short story is about two teenage Native American boys, Lyman and Henry, and the bond of their love for each other symbolized by a red convertible. One summer they buy a red convertible and travel across North America. When they return home, the older of the two, Henry, gets drafted in the war and spends up to three years in Vietnam with several of them as a POW. When he comes back, the effects of PTSD are obvious, but medical treatment is unavailable to him on his reservation because his mother is afraid to visit the local doctor. Henry, who used to be an energetic, joking, happy-go-lucky person, is now very quiet, jumpy, and uncomfortable around other people.Order now
He just sits in front of the family’s color television firmly gripping his chair. People on the reservation find Henry strange and they do not know how to act around him. Lyman finds his brother hard to understand, so he purposely destroys the convertible, which he had kept in good shape since before the war, and believes that through Henry fixing it, their old relationship can be rekindled. For a while Henry shows a small bit of his old self as he intently works to refurbish the car. When the car is completed, Henry and Lyman go for a drive and end up drinking beer down by the flooded river. In the end, Henry “goes for a swim” in river where his boots fill with water and his painful memories are finally stopped when he drowns.
Henry illustrates symptoms many Vietnam veterans have faced after the war. According to Arthur G. Neal and his book “National Trauma and Collective Memory: Major events in the American Century,” one of the main reasons Vietnam veterans suffer from PTSD is that they were thrown back into society without a any sort of “ritualistic purification” (140). Neal tells us that unlike after World War II when soldiers were given parades and were praised as heroes, Vietnam veterans were badly treated by civilian Americans because of the huge disbelief in and hatred of the war (140). The lack of this purification was especially bad for those veterans who were underprivileged, such as Native Americans. These underprivileged veterans were unable to get the required medical attention to treat their disorder.
The poverty that Native Americans and those of other similar demographics lived in caused a sharp difference in veterans who suffered from PTSD, as Sarah L. Knox writes in a review of Eric T. Dean, Jr.’s “’Shook over Hell’: Post-Traumatic Stress, Vietnam, and the Civil War” (111). Knox says Dean argues that the privileged veteran would receive better treatment and medical attention compared to his impoverished counterpart (111).
Neal also states that the communities and employers of Vietnam veterans treated them as if they had just gotten back from a vacation (140).
This casual handling .