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DANVILLE, Pa. – The new PBS documentary series, “The Vietnam War” by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick premiering Sunday will likely spark emotions among veterans of that war. A Geisinger researcher on PTSD, and a US Army Vietnam combat veteran himself, believes vets should watch with caution. “Some will have a recurrence of their experience,” said Dr. Joseph Boscarino, PhD, MPH, Senior Scientist for the Geisinger Center for Health Research who is conducting research related to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). “The experience doesn’t really go away.  You just learn to manage it.”

“The Vietnam War” is a ten-part, 18-hour documentary featuring testimony from many Americans who fought in the war. Dr. Boscarino thinks the Vietnam community is still stressed out after 50 years. “Many vets have suppressed their feelings,” he said, “and their feelings and bad memories may reemerge with this series.”

Dr. Boscarino describes PTSD as “fear of death.” If not treated properly, Dr. Boscarino believes the disorder can be disabling. The Geisinger epidemiologist and social psychologist, along with his research team, are now investigating the genetics of PTSD and suicide among both veterans and non-veterans.

Dr. Boscarino says if Vietnam veterans plan to watch the PBS series, they should relax, avoid alcohol and try not to be alone. “Watch with other vets so you have a support group,” he said. “And if you are having issues such as anger, anxiety, or emotional arousal, you probably shouldn’t watch the series at all.” Above all, if veterans feel overwhelmed after they start watching the series, Dr. Boscarino reminds them to contact VA help lines and continue counseling services.

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The Vietnam War image from PBS
Dr. Joseph Boscarino
Dr. Joseph Boscarino, PhD, MPH, Senior Scientist for the Geisinger Center for Health Research