CNN Sunday Morning, 6:00 AM
RANDI KAYE: Thousands of U.S. troops are heading home from wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. But now many of them are fighting a war after the war. We're talking about post-traumatic stress disorder, also called PTSD. It is a term that we first started to talk about in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, but for today's troops, it is as relevant as ever. PTSD is a mental disorder that some get after seeing or living through a dangerous event such as war combat. A person may have a flashback or begin reliving the event. They may have bad memories or even nightmares. They might feel numb or become jittery, or always be on alert or on the lookout for danger.
Even knowing what PTSD does to a person, it's shocking that many veterans commit suicide in this country. How many? On average, as many as 18 every day. Mike Scotti is a former Marine lieutenant who served in Afghanistan and Iraq. He has recovered from PTSD. Good morning, Mike, thanks for joining us this morning.
MIKE SCOTTI: Good morning, Randi. Thanks for having me.
KAYE: You have taken your experiences and made a documentary film. And now you've written a book called "The Blue Cascade" about those experiences and how to recover from the disorder. I'm curious why you felt it was so important to share your story.
SCOTTI: Well, I think a lot of times, you know, Marines and soldiers, anybody who's fought in war has been taught that vulnerability and weakness are the same thing. And on the battlefield, they are the same thing. But once you get home and get back in the civilian world, vulnerability and weakness are not the same thing. Vulnerability is -- allowing yourself to become vulnerable is what is going to allow you to talk about what happened and what you're feeling, and allow you to get better. And so I wanted to tell my story to show others that it's OK if you're not OK. There's no shame in being upset, being angry, or feeling lonely or feeling sad. And that even warriors can cry sometimes.
KAYE: Yes. You know, I've talked to veterans like yourself who have a hard time even just driving down the street, if they see a piece of trash there, they're in fear that it's an IED or something. A lot of them don't manage it. How are you able to manage your PTSD, and how are you doing now?
SCOTTI: For me it was a unique story, but I think one that can be applied everywhere. You know, making the film "Severe Clear," you know, forced me to confront everything that happened over there. I had shot some video footage and we got some footage from other people who were with us. And so going through the scenes with the video editors and the director, Kristian Fraga, and reliving all this over and over again for hours on end, for weeks on end, was really like a giant therapy session. Once I allowed myself to be vulnerable and opened up with people that in the beginning were really almost like strangers, you know, through time that became a shared experience. And I realized how cathartic the process was and the importance of opening up. I'm doing fine.
KAYE: You are?
SCOTTI: Fine now.
KAYE: That's great. We have a lot of troops watching us around the world this morning. What advice do you give others?
SCOTTI: The first thing I say is allow yourself to be vulnerable. The second thing I say, is you know, if you think you may have a problem, is talk to someone about it. Call a buddy. Call the Wounded Warrior Project. Approach the VA, reach out to the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. There are numerous organizations that are willing to help.
You know, or you can go to CNN.com/impact, and on the left side of the page by a piece I wrote called "there's no shame in not being Superman," you can click on there and get some resources there to help you. But if there's anybody out there who knows anybody who's struggling, they need to get the book, "The Blue Cascade," and read it. Because it is a story -- it's every man's story.
KAYE: You mentioned the documentary "Severe Clear." I want to take a look at a short clip and then I want to ask you something about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SCOTTI: Didn't take us long to figure out that because of it, war gravitates toward uncertainty, chaos, and disorder. (END VIDEO CLIP)
KAYE: Parts of it are really tough to watch. What has been the reaction to it?
SCOTTI: Overwhelmingly the reaction has been positive. I've spoken to, you know, hundreds of Marines and soldiers who fought in the war. And they love the film because it is so raw. There is no political kind of, you know, bent to the whole thing. It's really about what it's like to fight on the front lines in combat in a war. And I think that, you know -- it was -- it's narrated by me, it's narrated by a combatant. It's not a journalist that's embedded. It's somebody who has an emotional stake in the outcome of the war.
KAYE: Well, Mike Scotti, we certainly thank you for your service. And thank you for talking about it. It certainly I hope it does help others.
SCOTTI: Thanks for having me. Appreciate it.