PTSD counseling available on Navajo Nation

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Members of the Navajo Nation should have an easier time getting treated for post-traumatic stress disorder under a new agreement to place social workers on tribal land.

The Navajo Area Indian Health Service and the Northern Arizona Veterans Affairs Health Care System recently agreed to locate social workers in the Fort Defiance Hospital and the Chinle Veterans Center.

Though both facilities are in Arizona, their services likely will be available to any Navajo veteran who needs help, IHS spokeswoman Jenny Notah said.

About 40 percent of all combat veterans, or an estimated 25 million U.S. soldiers, experience PTSD, which causes nightmares, flashbacks and exaggerated startle responses.

George Lawson, a licensed clinical social worker and member of the Veterans Affairs PTSD Outreach Team who is based at the Fort Defiance Hospital, said he serves about 20 clients per week, including veterans of World War II and the Korean, Vietnam and Persian Gulf wars.

Lawson said he did not know how many American Indian veterans are suffering from PTSD, but he thinks the problem is substantial.

"Tapping the numbers is difficult," he said. "That's part of why we're here. We know the numbers are here, we just don't know how great they are."

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