Midway through her 2004 deployment to Iraq's Anbar province, Navy psychologist Heidi Kraft was e-mailing her husband about her experiences, and the message somehow turned into verse. The poem became the basis for her memoir "Rule Number Two: Lessons I Learned in a Combat Hospital" -- lessons that she revisited last week following the shooting at a combat stress facility in Baghdad. Kraft, who left active duty after nine years in the Navy and now treats combat stress patients, spoke with Outlook's Rachel Dry about how the military handles mental health and why PTSD can be like a sprained ankle. Excerpts:
Last Monday, Sgt. John M. Russell allegedly walked into a combat stress facility at Camp Liberty in Baghdad and opened fire, killing five service members. What did you think when you heard about the shooting?
My heart sank. I was so terribly saddened to hear it. As a provider, I can understand how something like this might have happened. Certainly if someone expresses either suicidal or homicidal thoughts, that person is categorized as a psychiatric emergency and steps are taken to stabilize that person. Sometimes those thoughts are not expressed in a way that makes it very clear what you're dealing with, and sometimes there's nothing to be done.
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