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Post-traumatic stress disorder's effect on U.S. veterans explored on CBS Radio News

Here's a frightening statistic: Every day, some 22 American heroes take their own lives because of the stresses they experienced on the battlefield. Many more don't seek treatment and find their lives spiraling out of control.

"60 Minutes" correspondent Steve Kroft will host "Combat Stress: Finding the Way Home," a special radio hour exploring the impact of post-traumatic stress disorder on our nation's veterans to be broadcast during Memorial Day weekend.

The hour, a partnership between CBS News and CBS Cares - the award-winning public service campaign of the CBS Corporation - will be produced by CBS Radio News.

If you need help, or know someone who does, please call the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255, or you can text at 838255 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There's also information online at

"PTSD can be devastating. It's a critical issue that needs to be discussed often, so the thousands of vets affected by this illnesses can learn how to cope with it," said Kroft, a combat correspondent and photographer for Pacific Stars and Stripes in the Vietnam War.

Through two world wars, Korea and Vietnam, it was called "shell shock." One expert says the risk of human exposure to trauma has been present since humans existed, CBS Radio News correspondent Peter King reports in the program.

In an essay for the National Center for PTSD, Dr. Matthew Friedman writes that it could be caused by an attack by terrorists, even savage beasts. In literature, he says, even Shakespeare's "Henry IV," showed signs of post-traumatic stress disorder.

The Vietnam Veterans of America website says PTSD can be found in Holocaust survivors, people who've been in car accidents or victims of sexual attacks.

On that Vietnam vets' website, author Steve Bentley ties the first instances of military PTSD in this country to the Civil War, where he says technology helped soldiers kill and wound each other with pinpoint accuracy. The most extreme combat cases in those days were simply shipped home with no supervision or help.

PTSD didn't become part of our lexicon until the American Psychiatric Association added it to its manual for mental disorders in 1980, but even then it was controversial because the trigger was considered to be something outside the patient's psyche.

So how did the government react to all of this? In the early '70s, California Sen. Alan Cranston introduced a bill that would have created outreach centers to help returning Vietnam vets deal with psychological problems. That bill didn't pass until 1979.

Ten years later, Congress established the National Center for PTSD as part of the Department for Veterans Affairs, and in 2008 a RAND Corporation study found that more than 1 in 6 Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans suffered from PTSD or depression and said that not nearly enough were getting meaningful help.

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