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Local veterans, psychologist discuss PTSD and Supervisor Fletcher's announcement

Local veterans, psychologist discuss PTSD and Supervisor Fletcher's announcement
Posted at 5:56 PM, Mar 27, 2023

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Post-traumatic stress disorder has followed many veterans home after combat.

“Joining the military is there to defend our country and its principals, and that’s going to put you in situations that are very stressful,” said James Bartelloni, a veteran in Solana Beach.

It’s why Supervisor Nathan Fletcher’s recent announcement resonates with those who have served, including Bartelloni.

“I applaud him," Bartelloni said. "I think he’s taking a massively amazing step for military and veterans.”

Supervisor Fletcher announced on Sunday evening that he is stepping out of the race for State Senator to focus on his health. In a statement, his office wrote that he’s dealing with post traumatic stress, childhood trauma, and alcohol abuse.

“If you're going to serve in any capacity as a leader, you have to take care of yourself," Bartelloni said. "It’s my hope, my wish, my prayer, that he comes out stronger and better.”

Fletcher has been open about the challenges of having an abusive father and serving in the Marine Corps in Iraq. But his announcement still comes as a surprise after his decade-long career as a local politician.

“Veterans come to VA San Diego and it's been years since they’ve had PTSD symptoms," said Dr. Abigail Angkaw, a clinical psychologist with Veterans Affairs, San Diego. "But maybe they’ve been functioning in a way that people haven't noticed.”

Dr. Abigail Angkaw has spent 15 years working with veterans who have PTSD at Veterans Affairs in San Diego. She says around 20% of veterans who served in Iraq have PTSD.

“Avoidance is a big part of PTSD," Angkaw said. "One common way people avoid is by staying extra busy. Extra busy staying focused on work.”

She says although avoidance is common, the only way to get better is to see a specialist.

“Treatment is really needed to treat PTSD,” Angkaw said.

Fletcher has taken that route and says he’s checked into an inpatient treatment center. He’s also taking medical leave from the County of San Diego.