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Mil Med. 2007 Sep;172(9):968-71.

Ethnic-related stressors in the war zone: case studies of Asian American Vietnam veterans.

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  • 1National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, VA Pacific Islands Health Care System, Department of Veterans Affairs, 3375 Koapaka Street, Suite 1-560, Honolulu, HI 96819, USA.


Empirical research has shown that exposure to race-related stressors in the military by Asian American Pacific Islander Vietnam veterans, now reliably measurable, contributes uniquely and significantly to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms and generalized psychiatric distress; moreover, studies reveal that adverse race-related events can meet Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-IV criteria for a PTSD diagnosis. Competence in treating PTSD or general psychiatric distress requires understanding the types of, and effects of, adverse race-related events experienced by ethnic minority veterans. Case studies highlight two types of race-related stressors-"bicultural identification and conflict" and "racial stigmatization"-which placed the veteran at greater risk of death and reduced cohesion with fellow service members. The studies demonstrate the presence of race-related stressors in one or more of the four major types of war zone stressors: traditional combat, atrocities-abusive violence, perceived threat, and malevolent environment. These case studies supplement the empirical findings on race-related stressors and PTSD, enlarging the clinician's understanding of this unique type of mental health risk factor.

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