Amarillo VA Hospital treating combat stress disorders - KFDA - NewsChannel 10 / Amarillo News, Weather, Sports

Amarillo VA Hospital treating combat stress disorders

Coworkers say he was doing exactly what he wanted to be doing.

Amarillo psychiatrist Matthew Houseal was killed while treating soldiers at the combat stress control clinic in Camp Liberty, Baghdad.

Houseal volunteered for Operation Iraqi Freedom and was activated about four months ago, according to coworkers.

Texas Panhandle Mental Health Mental Retardation told NewsChannel 10 Houseal was a noble doctor because he chose to work in the public sector rather than practice medicine privately.

The soldier who allegedly shot him, John Russell, is believed to have mental health problems relating to combat stress.

Houseal was due to return home the first week of June.  He leaves behind a wife and four school-aged children.

Troops returning from tours overseas have more treatment options available than ever before.

But many soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan aren't receiving the treatment they need.

"What I've noticed with a lot of the newer vets, the younger veterans, is that they come home and they want to be alone, they want to be left and sometimes that's not the best thing for them," said David Crabtree, Amarillo VA Patient Representative.  "They need to get out and start doing things again and they need to get in and get evaluated."

Some feel post traumatic stress disorder and other combat-related illnesses will stop them from living the life they want.

"Some people are trying to get particular jobs and they don't want a label," said Crabtree.  "They think they are going to get a label as having PTSD or TBI and they wouldn't want an employer to know that."

Doctors at the VA hospital in Amarillo hope treatment and therapy will help change their minds.

"hopefully the stigma wont keep people from getting what they need," said Dr. Paul Whittaker, OEF/OIF Clinic Director and VA Physician.

A new stress clinic for troops specifically returning from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan opened recently.

Whittaker hopes the developments his team has made will help everyone learn that mental illness doesn't have to hinder soldiers' lives.

"We know that people with just a little bit of help can recover and get back some of their life that they feel they've been missing since they've been back home," said Whittaker. 

Whittaker asks that friends and family members noticing any change in their veterans should contact the VA to help them get treatment.

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