08 March 2013

Dear Senator Feinstein,

I just sent this off to Sen. Feinstein. Feel free to copy and/or circulate it as you see fit. PLEASE, please please please contact Sen. Feinstein about her ignorant, incorrect, and insulting remarks about PTSD and veterans. I"m not even asking her to stop supporting gun control, I just want her to correct her remarks about PTSD and apologize.
(Not sure what I'm so upset about? Check out my blog post from earlier today)

Dear Senator Feinstein,
I'd like to begin by explaining the background I come from. I am a U.S. Army veteran. I am also a survivor of Postpartum Depression, Postpartum Anxiety, and Postpartum Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and I am an advocate and blogger for women struggling with Postpartum Mood and Anxiety Disorders. My husband is currently on Active Duty in the U.S. Army and is a combat veteran of multiple deployments in the Middle East. One of my grandfathers served in the U.S. Navy and one of my grandmothers and my other grandfather served in the U.S. Air Force. My brother is a veteran and combat veteran of the U.S. Army. My mother-in-law and father-in-law were both in the U.S. Navy. I have a sister-in-law and brother-in-law who serve in the U.S. Coast Guard. I have multiple other extended family members and close friends who have served or are serving in various branches of the U.S. Military.
I am writing to you today regarding your comments during the March 7, 2013 Judiciary Committee Hearing on S.150 The Assault Weapons Ban. Yesterday, you stated on record that "with the advent of PTSD, which I think is a new phenomenon as a product of the Iraq War, it's not clear how the seller transfer of a firearm covered by this bill would verify that the individual was a member or veteran and that there was no impairment of that individual with respect to having a weapon like this... I think if you're going to do this you have to find a way that veterans who are incapacitated for one reason or another mentally don't have access to this kind of weapon".
There are several problems with your comments. I'd like to address several of these problems in no particular order of importance.
1. PTSD is not a new phenomenon, nor is it a product of the Iraq War. Even if the only PTSD cases you want to consider are those of military personnel, service-members in conflicts preceding the war in Iraq were already suffering. World War 1, World War 2, Vietnam, the Korean War, and the first Persian Gulf War, just to name a few. My own grandfather was a POW in North  Korea during the Korean War and he came back with PTSD as a result of the atrocities he endured while he was a prisoner. Your statement that PTSD is a new phenomenon following the Iraq war is insulting to all these other veterans and passes them off as unimportant, saying that they don't count and don't matter, it wasn't really a problem before Iraq. It was.
2. PTSD is not specific to the military or to combat veterans. PTSD affects people who have never served a day in the military. PTSD stands for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and I think everyone can agree that Traumatic situations can and do affect anyone, no matter what their situation is. Postpartum PTSD affects as many as 7-16% of new moms and that has nothing to do with the military, combat, or Iraq. Rape victims, victims of tragedies such as Hurricane Katrina, survivors of 9/11, and so so many other people facing a myriad of countless types of situations face PTSD, and your comments insult them and say that if you're not a veteran during/since Iraq, you don't matter.
3. There is already too much stigma surrounding mental health. It's incredibly difficult to reach out and say "I need help" when people think and say things that either insinuate or flat out say that people with mental health issues are all violent monsters waiting for the right time to flip out and go on a murderous rampage. Comments such as yours only add to that stigma and further perpetuate the myths that I and my fellow mental health advocates are working so hard to disperse.
This is especially ironic considering that you claim to be highly involved with and supportive of veterans, working for better help and research for veterans with PTSD and TBI.
I urge you to publicly retract and apologize for your statement that I quoted at the beginning of my email. You have done great harm to veterans and to the entire mental health community; please take this opportunity to do the right thing by publicly admitting that you misspoke and apologizing for your insulting and factually incorrect remarks. As an elected official. you represent the people of the United States and you work for us; it is your duty and responsibility to correct these statements you have made that have the potential to so greatly misinform people as to the nature of mental health in general and PTSD specifically. Please do the right thing.
Esther Dale


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