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DR. DREW

Actor Declutters Home; Wounded Warrior Wives; PTSD: The War At Home

Aired January 2, 2012 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


DR. DREW PINSKY, HOST: Here we go. Mackenzie Phillips confronts a new challenge that affects millions. She`s here and she is going to talk about how she cleaned up her act.

Then, homecoming for our troops isn`t the end of the road for some, it`s the beginning of hardships they brought back from the battlefield. You`ll see.

Let`s get started.

Of course, you remember her for her role as the rebellious daughter on the hit TV sitcom, "One Day at a Time." And she wrote a book a few years back detailing her difficult relationship with her famous father and of course substance abuse and addiction.

Last year, she was actually on my program, my VH1 program, "Celebrity Rehab." I`m of course talking about actor Mackenzie Phillips. And she`s here tonight to talk about a new - what should we call this - issue, a new phenomenon, clutter.

MACKENZIE PHILLIPS, ACTOR: The next - the next move in my wellness.

PINSKY: The next in your wellness, all right.

Now, this week, Mackenzie is taking part in something called "Extreme Clutter." It`s a program on the OWN Network which premiered last night. It continues tonight at 10:00 P.M. with the airing of her episode, "Beyond Addiction." The show is hosted by Organizational Expert Peter Walsh.

PHILLIPS: Peter!

PINSKY: There`s Peter.

Let`s see Peter and Mackenzie in action cleaning out Mackenzie`s bedroom, closet. And as I think this is a really fascinating study you guys do of your living environment and your life because of something she didn`t expect when she started cleaning things up. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIPS: I was looking around my closet for the match to a shoe maybe six months ago. I find a needle, a syringe. We`re going to have to be careful, because I - I found one.

PETER WALSH, ORGANIZATION AND CLUTTER EXPERT: Now, what have we got here?

PHILLIPS: Oh, wow, OK. That`s weird. My God.

WALSH: What is that?

PHILLIPS: Pill bottles.

WALSH: What kind of pills have we got here?

PHILLIPS: I don`t know. I don`t want to know. I want to throw them away.

WALSH: I don`t think ever before I`ve seen a person reacting such a primeval way to a space. This space represents everything dark and evil in Mackenzie`s past.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PINSKY: So, Mac, I got a ton of questions, but that is just a fascinating experience you had right there.

But let me ask something simple to begin with. Why did you want to do the show?

PHILLIPS: Well, you know, I - I had been through so much and the book came out and I was in rehab, then I was in rehab with you, and things piled up, and you know, you walk into my house, you wouldn`t go, oh, my God, what`s wrong with this place? It`s a mess.

PINSKY: It`s not. I think your house - yes, it`s fine.

PHILLIPS: You`ve been in my house.

PINSKY: Yes.

PHILLIPS: You`ve been in every room in my house.

PINSKY: Yes.

PHILLIPS: But like my garage was just filled with so much stuff, and my bedroom, it was like I was living the life of an addict without the substance.

And I really, I was approached by the lovely, lovely Peter Walsh and the Oprah Winfrey Network, and I thought, wow. You mean I don`t have to do this alone? I can have some help? And so that`s -

PINSKY: Just like recovery, you need other people.

PHILLIPS: I could not do it alone. Right, Peter?

PINSKY: Peter, you there with us in Australia?

WALSH: I sure am. I sure am. Hi from Melbourne.

PINSKY: And what did you - so it seems like you were deeply invested in Mac and her experience. What did you learn about Mac through this process?

WALSH: Well, look, one thing I learned most of all I think is that Mac is incredibly brave. You know, I think we knew that, but - but here is a person who I think was very self aware, saw that the stuff she owned was really dragging her back into some really pretty dark experiences from her past and was really prepared to deal with that in an open and honest way, and you see that play out very dramatically in the episode.

PINSKY: Now, I see one aspect of Mac`s recovery in the stories you guys are telling, which is that sometimes there`s - the addict in the person knows don`t go there, don`t go to that environment. I think your closet was one of those environments.

PHILLIPS: Yes.

PINSKY: Or I hear there`s a desk we`re going to learn about as we go through story, too, that there`s something dangerous there and indeed there was.

But you also brought up like something else that I have not thought about was that there were also things in there that - that had power over you. Tell me about that.

PHILLIPS: Peter taught me that objects have power and that my - my need to hold onto these powerful objects was really - had nothing to do with my vision of my life going forward, and you know, we found some really dark things.

PINSKY: That continued to have power over you.

PHILLIPS: That continued to have power over me.

PINSKY: Yes. And Peter, I notice this, too, with people that really have problems uncluttering, let`s call it that, they have trouble letting go of things. Is that a common thing you encounter?

WALSH: Well, I think that everybody deals with clutter in some way, and for me and for the show, clutter is anything that gets between you and the life you would like to be living, whether that`s the physical stuff, the way you behave, the stuff in your head. And I think that everyone is in that situation in some way.

And I think that`s what makes this show so powerful, that it`s not just about a celebrity named Mackenzie Phillips, but I think all of us can see ourselves in some way in this show.

PINSKY: Yes. It`s funny you say that. I immediately think to myself when you frame it like that, I think, oh, I got some things I need to get rid of.

PHILLIPS: Yes.

PINSKY: That`s not something I really wanted to have with me going forward necessarily.

Now, Mackenzie discovered actually some of her father`s clothing in the garage which causes her to have emotions, of course, concerning that relationship. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIPS: Oh, God, I completely forgot about that bag.

WALSH: Tell me what.

PHILLIPS: That`s one of his shirts that he wore all the time. Some of his t-shirts.

WALSH: Do you remember the others?

PHILLIPS: I remember this very well.

WALSH: OK. You and I have spoken about the power of stuff.

PHILLIPS: This shouldn`t be here.

WALSH: OK. Well, then let`s then take the power back.

PHILLIPS: OK.

WALSH: Does any of this feel like the kind of thing that you would want to hold onto?

PHILLIPS: Absolutely not.

WALSH: OK, then.

PHILLIPS: Absolutely not.

WALSH: OK. Then it goes into the donate pile.

PHILLIPS: I think the thing is that it was such a misunderstood relationship, I tried so hard not to demonize him publicly, but the truth is that I was abused by him, and - and it`s very hard for me to see this. And to see that I actually held onto it for so long.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PINSKY: And Mac, yes, I hear you taking a deep breath. I still feel the emotion coming from you sitting here. Tell me about that experience.

PHILLIPS: Well, I was just shocked. I had completely forgotten that I still had this bag.

PINSKY: But on some level you must have known, that`s what kept you out of the garage. Some part of your body knew it was there, you know?

PHILLIPS: Of course. I mean, yes, you know? And then when I put all those things into the bin, to the giveaway bin, I realized that that shirt that was in the photograph of me and my father that was I found in the bag I needed to save to give to someone who really appreciate it, and I can`t say who that is, but I did pass it on to someone who was very grateful to have it.

And even that in and of itself that I was able to make that gesture to someone I care about very much is so meaningful to me.

PINSKY: Well, I tell you what I like about that, it is - it is being realistic about the power the clothing has, and in doing something proactive with it rather than just - oh, cutting off from it and throwing it out.

PHILLIPS: Right. The handing it over to someone who will actually put it on and go wow.

PINSKY: Turning it over.

PHILLIPS: Yes.

PINSKY: Now, Mackenzie not only gets rid of the desk in which she used to use substances, she actually smashes it to pieces. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PHILLIPS: Oh, look at that.

WALSH: Oh, my god.

PHILLIPS: Smashing it, it breaks open, and there`s an empty cocaine baggy that had been stuck to the top of the desk, just there.

Look at that. It`s a bag that held cocaine.

WALSH: That`s amazing. Wow.

PHILLIPS: Whoa.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Smash it. Just smash that bag.

PHILLIPS: Taking a sledgehammer to something that had so much power, and then it was incredible. Talk about full circle. Amazing.

It`s dead and I`m not.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PINSKY: Peter, as someone that has - has known Mackenzie and cares deeply about her, known her for a long time, that`s a - that`s a big experience. I could see what she was going through.

Did all of that surprise you? And did you learn more about Mackenzie through that particular experience?

WALSH: You know, Dr. Drew, one of the things I`ve seen, that when someone takes possession back of their life, and you know I`ve seen you work through this with people, too, that it really transforms them in ways that I don`t think anyone expects. And you will see in this show that the physical transformation of Mac, that she looks different, she reacts different when she takes possession back of her life, by letting go of the stuff that kept dragging her to a place where she shouldn`t be and didn`t want to be.

And, you know, I see it constantly. I`m - I`m always so thrilled to see it, and the transformative power of decluttering and organizing I think is incredible to watch and it`s humbling and it`s wonderful.

PINSKY: And a couple of things I would say is, one, people are always looking for behaviors, things they can do to make the inside better. This is a nice lesson in that.

And the other thing, Peter, it`s interesting you bring it up how she looked. Because during the tape, I said, Mac, look at you. Look how relieved you look, right? And when they come back to the interview, you look so deeply relieved by this.

PHILLIPS: You know, it was - it was such a beautiful experience for me. And, you know, when Peter says that these things and these possessions were dragging me back, they weren`t dragging me back to actually physically use drugs.

PINSKY: No.

PHILLIPS: It was an emotional dragging back to a difficult mind space.

PINSKY: Yes.

PHILLIPS: And so I just want to be clear on that. And, yes, it`s transformative. It was incredible.

And I really think that I look at this show as an opportunity. Just like "Celebrity Rehab," it`s great for the people going through it, but it`s even better for the people watching, because it`s a public service in a weird way.

PINSKY: Right. But then it becomes - then it comes back to you again as a service. So -

PHILLIPS: Yes. Well, there you go. Thank you. Drew. Thank you, Peter, I love you.

PINSKY: Thank you for bringing that (ph). And, by the way, watching you react doesn`t leave any question about your sobriety. You see the substances, they go down the toilet.

PHILLIPS: Right.

PINSKY: That`s where they go. Thank you, Peter. Thank you for helping Mac out. And Mac, thank you for joining us.

"Extreme Clutter" airs tonight on the OWN Network. Cheers, mate, is that what they say in Australia? It`s on the OWN Network at 10:00 P.M.

Next, military wives, all they want is for the husbands to come home safely, but what happens if they don`t. Then not only that, what if they don`t even recognize the person who does come back? We`re talking to a woman who went from newlywed to a full-time nurse for an injured vet.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PINSKY: All week, we have been covering stories about our troops coming home. Tonight, I want to talk about the other victims of war, army wives, army spouses who become full-time caretakers sometimes when if it`s a husband who`s gone overseas, they come home physically and mentally sometimes wounded.

Cheryl Gansner is married. She was married just four months when her husband Bryan returned from Iraq a broken man. He had a traumatic brain injury and actually was on life support. She quit her job as a social worker to take care of him.

Bryan spoke about his wife`s strength in a "Huffington Post" Special called "Beyond The Battlefield." Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRYAN GANSNER, WOUNDED IRAQ WAR VETERAN: I think people should be aware that there`s still people who are getting injured and the ones that have been injured for years are still dealing with the injuries. It`s something you never get completely over.

And even if your physical wounds heal 100 percent, there`s still the mental wounds that you have to deal with for years to come.

She was my nurse, my advocate, my strength. And she would clean the room, wash my hair, shave me, brush my teeth, whatever I needed help with, she was the one that did that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PINSKY: Bryan suffered what`s called a brain contusion. It`s like a bruise in the brain and it affects - it actually damages the tissue inside what we call the parenchyma (ph) of the brain. It results sometimes in diminished cognitive and emotional abilities and is rather unpredictable. Then as a result of the unpredictable behaviors from the contusion, he was put on medication to contain them that made him numb and changed his personality.

Cheryl says he was somebody I didn`t even recognize. He was standoffish, hateful, angry and selfish.

Cheryl joins us tonight. Cheryl, you were just 24 when this first happened. Tell us what happened when you got that call that Bryan was home but injured.

CHERYL GANSNER, CARING FOR HUSBAND INJURED IN IRAQ: Bryan actually got injured overseas in Iraq. He had lower extremity injuries as well as a brain injury, and later we found out PTSD. I found out through his commander, who called me personally, and they life flighted him to Walter Reed.

PINSKY: Now, you - there was some event I guess when you left the hospital together for the first time to get some food. Can you tell me about that experience?

C. GANSNER: Yes. The first time we left the hospital, we decided to go down the road about 10 miles and grab a bite to eat. It was our first experience out of the hospital with a wheelchair. And that experience was very traumatic for him and also for me because he was scared of everything in the road, the manholes, the bags of trash, different things. He just kept thinking were IEDs and bombs and they were going to go off and hurt him.

And then once we arrived at our destination, we tried to get up the hill in his wheelchair and it was very challenging terrain to get up in. And we started to go into the restaurant and the wheelchair handicap button didn`t work, so the cashier came to help us, and he had a turban on his head and he was from the Middle East. And I saw the panic in his face when he saw that man as he related him, you know, to an Iraqi, to someone that hurt him.

And it was a very stressful time and event for us, and I never, never ever thought that just riding in a car would be so traumatic for him and being out in social places.

PINSKY: So let me try to put this together for the viewers, which is that this is both post traumatic stress disorder, which we`re going to talk about even in more detail a little later in the show, and traumatic brain injury.

And, you know, so many of the people who are serving in Iraq and working on the medical side of things say is that people - we don`t let people die anymore, they come back with tremendous injuries, often head injuries, and that`s really what you were dealing with.

And so it`s almost like you have, Cheryl, a different person coming home, don`t you? You have to sort of relearn one another, recreate a relationship together, and in your case rethink what your life together was even really all about.

C. GANSNER: Correct. That`s exactly right. I mean, I became his caregiver, sort of like his mother instead of his spouse.

PINSKY: And you actually reached out and created a blog, and the situation is of course very isolating. But you reached a point where you`ve actually created a little community where other women could reach out to you. Is that correct?

C. GANSNER: Yes. I work for Operation Home Front. We do Warrior Wives Program. And through the program I`m able to reach out to other wives that are going through the same things that I have gone through and maybe are newer in the process of recovering, and dealing with PTSD. And through that we`re able to help each other and they`re able to go on retreats and get on forums and talk together and that`s really healing. And it kind of eliminates the isolation.

PINSKY: We were - we were actually able to pull together some calls. We have a phone call of someone you had reached, I guess, through your blog.

Let`s see, the blog is called Blogspot.com. And we have a woman who wanted to thank you for helping her. Her name is Serena Bowen. Serena, she joins us now by phone. You wanted to say something to Cheryl.

SERENA BOWEN, CAREGIVER FOR INJURED WAR VET (via telephone): Cheryl, hello.

C. GANSNER: Hey, girl.

BOWEN: I just wanted to tell you what an amazing person you are and what an amazing opportunity your blog did for me. I know you know that. Those lonely, lonesome nights at Walter Reed, I was able to reach out through your blog and be able to use you as a support system for me when Michael was going through what he was going through.

C. GANSNER: Thank you. Thank you so much. It`s great to hear your voice.

PINSKY: We`re out of time. Thank you, Serena.

I want to ask my controller. Do I have time to do a quick Facebook question or are we running out of time here? Somebody tell me - give me the next Facebook question, please.

OK. This is, "Cheryl, what has changed about you as a whole as you went through this experience?" My understanding, you yourself have had a burnout, had even became - had a secondary PTSD and even become suicidal yourself. Is that right? We have 30 seconds.

C. GANSNER: Yes. It`s definitely isolating and lonesome and definitely I thought about just eliminating myself out of the situation because it was too stressful. I got burned out. And I realized I had to start helping myself and get counseling for myself and help by volunteering and just reaching out to others so that I wouldn`t feel so alone and that I knew, you know, I could do it some more and do it for longer.

PINSKY: Well, Cheryl is actually going to stay with me. Thank you, Cheryl.

You`re actually going to stay with me and answer more of your questions on our "On Call" section.

And also "Grey`s Anatomy" star Kevin McKidd, whose TV character himself suffered from PTSD, will join us. We`ll hear how it has affected his off screen life. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PINSKY: We are back with Cheryl Gansner. She quit her job to take care of her husband when he returned from the war. It was a life-altering experience for both of them.

Cheryl is helping me answer your questions on our "On Call" section. And we`re going to start with a Facebook question from Stacey. "Cheryl, you wrote that your husband became very supportive of you when you began reaching out and meeting others who knew what you were going through. What was that process like?" Cheryl, tell us about that.

C. GANSNER: Well, first, the process just became something to keep his family informed of what was going on. And then it became a very therapeutic process for me. And then it kind of turned into a way of helping others, and I really appreciated his support and openness to let me share his story and our story to help others.

PINSKY: Let`s go and take a call. This is Jason in Canada. Jason, go ahead.

JASON, MAHONE BAY, NS, CANADA (via telephone): Hi, Dr. Drew.

PINSKY: Hi, Jason.

JASON: Just wanted to ask your guest what is it really like to have a spouse go to war, and what ways do they communicate when they are there?

PINSKY: Well, I think he means while he`s overseas. How did that work for you, Cheryl?

C. GANSNER: Communication?

PINSKY: Yes.

C. GANSNER: Yes. The first time he was deployed, we didn`t have a lot of communication, no Internet, very limited phone, and we basically wrote letters. The second go around was a lot better. We had Internet connection and we had phones. So I got to talk to him maybe every couple, three or four days.

PINSKY: And Cheryl, let me - let me go back and talk about your husband. Is he getting better? Or - because sometimes these traumatic brain injuries, there could be something called gliosis or scars form in the brain and symptoms can actually get worse. Is he doing better now?

C. GANSNER: He is doing better. He got some hyperbaric oxygen therapy for his brain injury and that really helped a lot, but unfortunately we`re not able to get any more treatment at this time, so we`re just trying to wait it out and be positive.

PINSKY: OK. Let`s go back to Facebook. "Cheryl, was there one person in particular you`d like to point out that helped you get through the most difficult times with your husband?"

C. GANSNER: Yes. One of my amazing friends, Carrie Fugit (ph), she - her husband was wounded around the same time and we were really close friends. And I had a couple of other friends like Serena that called in and Renee Aries (ph) that helped me through the process and kind of mentored me, and was my support system that I really needed.

PINSKY: I think that`s, you know, so important to point out is that you got to have others. I mean, you can`t do this one alone. It`s a marathon, and it`s heavy lifting, literally and figuratively.

I`m going to go back to Facebook. "Cheryl, did your work - again, remind people Cheryl was a social worker - so did you work with at risk teens in the past help you in any way deal with your husband`s condition? Interesting question. What do you say to that, Cheryl?

C. GANSNER: I think so, because they were high risk. They had been through some things themselves that have been traumatic. So that kind of helped me prepare for what I was going to deal with later on, with my husband, just dealing with a lot of stressors and things like that.

PINSKY: And finally, this is Beth on Facebook. "Cheryl, you sound like such a strong and compassionate woman. Who do you attribute that to?" We were talking to Miss Damon, what was her first name? The woman that stood up to the gentleman in court, Heidi Damon, the other day and this is the question we asked of her, too. And she had quite a - quite a rich fabric of people that made her who she was. Who is it for you, Cheryl?

C. GANSNER: I think my mom. I think I would draw strength from my mom. She taught me to be a strong woman. And I just always felt like, you know, I was going to take my vows seriously and for better or worse and stick it out, and that`s exactly what I did.

PINSKY: Well, thank you, Cheryl. We are - you are in all our prayers. And I appreciate you joining us tonight here.

Next, "Grey`s Anatomy`s" Dr. Owen Hunt, the actor, Kevin McKidd is here to talk about his character with PTSD.

If you want to read more about this story and many others, go to HLNTV.com and check it out. More on our soldiers after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PINSKY (voice-over): Combat stress, battle fatigue, PTSD, all names for the bone-pressuring (ph) mental break troops often suffer in war. In World War I, it was bravely misunderstood. Nearly a century later, we`re still struggling to treat it. Victorious on the battlefield, some vets are defeated at home, haunted by panic, depression, flashbacks, and brain injury. They risk addiction, homelessness, and suicide.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Twenty percent of all suicides are completed by veterans.

Do you know a vet with PTSD? What can you do to help them? I`m asking a marine who lived it and a psychiatrist who treats it.

Plus, actor, Kevin McKidd, and comedian, Jeffrey Ross, share their experiences with men and women in uniform.

LEON PANETTA, DEFENSE SECRETARY: We will never forget the lessons of war, nor will we ever forget the sacrifices of the more than one million men and women of the United States armed forces who served in Iraq.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PINSKY (on-camera): The war in Iraq is finally over, and thousands of service members are returning home this week as Washington completes its drawdown of U.S. forces. These heroic men and women have been exposed to, sometimes, atrocities of war. Many soldiers will find it difficult to put the past behind them. Some will suffer from what we call posttraumatic stress disorder or PTSD.

You hear that term tossed around a bunch of time (ph) already. It`s something that can occur after a traumatic event. People can get an acute stress disorder, ASD, very similar symptoms, and it goes away. PTSD will persist, and it requires one or more symptoms from each of the following categories. So, we`re going to define PTSD for you.

One of these symptoms, one, reliving the event through upsetting thoughts, nightmares, or flashbacks. Two, avoiding activities, thoughts, and feelings that remind the person of the event. Three, loss of interest and activities, feeling alone, sort of symptoms of depression. And four, angry outbursts and feeling that one can never relax. We call that hypervigilant. They`re on guard all the time.

Here with me to talk about this, Ken Scherer, a veteran of the Iraq war who began experiencing symptoms of PTSD shortly after he returned home in 2004. Actor, Kevin McKidd, plays Dr. Owen Hunt on "Grey`s Anatomy," and Kevin`s character is an army surgeon who served in Iraq war and suffers from PTSD.

Now, Kevin, I understand, you actually went out and interviewed soldiers like Ken to sort of learn about the condition. What did you learn?

KEVIN MCKIDD, ACTOR, "GREY`S ANATOMY": Yes, you know, when I started "Grey`s Anatomy," they offered me this character. I didn`t really know what PTSD or posttraumatic stress disorder was, so I had to read -- I started reading books mainly about surgeons who are serving in Iraq. And then, I started to interview army liaison officers who, you know, every soldier gets a chance to access and help them with their sort of reintegration back into everyday life.

And, I really became hugely sort of interested and moved by, you know, the sacrifice that everyone, all the soldiers have gone through and what they`re living. But, you know, once they come back, I realize that it takes months, sometimes, for this condition to sort of manifest itself. It`s not instantaneous diagnosis, which I thought was interesting.

PINSKY: Yes. It sort of -- it can happen right after an event or can happen right after then go away and then come back.

MCKIDD: Right.

PINSKY: But the common thing, Ken, you were talking to me during the break that it`s sort of -- it`s a fade in to these symptoms.

KEN SCHERER, IRAQ WAR VETERAN: Yes. When I first came back from the Iraq war, you know, everything was still kind of the same. You know, nothing had changed.

PINSKY: That was at home?

SCHERER: Yes. You know, and also, back with my unit when we got back. But once I got out of the military element, that`s when all the symptoms started hitting.

PINSKY: What were your symptoms?

SCHERER: Well, one, you know, high anxiety. You know, I was very --

PINSKY: It`s like your engine is turned on at a higher clip all the time. You`re buzzing.

SCHERER: And, you know, whenever I was in a crowded place, I would get really, really, you know, upset.

PINSKY: Agoraphobia is the name for that which is one of the symptoms of PTSD. Sure.

SCHERER: You know, and then, I found myself also reliving a lot of the routines that I was doing when I was in Iraq.

PINSKY: Did you act them out to feel better?

SCHERER: Well, one activity that I was doing was, I would, you know, patrol the house at night before I would go to bed. And I would actually do this with a gun in my hand, you know, just because I wanted to make sure everything was safe.

PINSKY: Did you have family that was living with you at that point?

SCHERER: Yes.

PINSKY: Did they try to discourage you from that or they freak out? It`s like, what`s going on, Ken?

SCHERER: They actually -- they really didn`t even know I was doing it because it was when they were all in bed.

PINSKY: Right. Did you think to yourself it was inappropriate?

SCHERER: No.

PINSKY: Did you finally -- at what point did you know you need a help?

SCHERER: Pretty much when I hit rock bottom, you know, I really, I turned to alcohol a lot.

PINSKY: Common thing.

SCHERER: Yes. To kind of suppress the emotion. And, you know, I really hit rock bottom, and I almost killed myself because of it.

PINSKY: And that`s --

SCHERER: Yes. And that`s when I knew it was time to --

PINSKY: Yes. Out of curiosity, because I`ve heard this story more times than I can count from soldiers, and it`s always somehow surprising to them. Do you have a message for some of the guys returning home and gals about not letting this happen, that may be reaching out for help sooner?

SCHERER: Yes. I would tell everyone that, you know, when you come home, you know, there`s going to be change in your lives. And, the only way that you can deal with that change is to face it head on. You know, the same way that you would face, you know, an attacker when we`re over there.

You face it head on. And, you know, when you feel that you`re in the position where it`s uncomfortable, back away from it for a little while. And then, reassert yourself in that situation to kind of wean yourself back into the world.

PINSKY: Now, Kevin, your character on "Grey`s Anatomy" has similar symptoms, actually experiences a flashback, I guess, it`s during the night, which is sometimes what happens. Let`s watch this tape.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCKIDD: I am so sorry. I don`t know what happened.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PINSKY: Now, I think if I were treating a patient that had a symptom like that, we call that a hypnagog hallucination. You`re actually in a half sleep, half out, and then, had a flashback and acted out as though that were real, and then, had all this guilt and shame and anxiety and remorse. I mean, did you talk to guys that had been through something like that?

MCKIDD: Absolutely. And I think what was interesting, when that episode aired, it was a few years ago, I think, you know, PTSD is becoming more -- great that you and the show are doing this right now. I think to talk about it more is to get rid of that stigma. People were fascinated when we aired this episode that this was happening, and this was -- it shown a light. At that time, it was three years ago.

PINSKY: So, that was a noble thing at that point?

MCKIDD: Yes. I remember --

(CROSSTALK)

PINSKY: You know, there`s a long history in the military of not being really proactive about this condition. But I must tell you, I`ve been practicing medicine long enough to see the arc of what the VA has done with this, and they really are going out to this condition and trying to do the best -- I mean, they are making a diligent effort to go and treat this thing.

And you know, people like you, soldiers aren`t ashamed of having it. They understand it`s a brain condition. And again, for my viewers, it`s not a brain injury in the way that Cheryl`s husband had a brain injury and had PTSD, those were two things.

This is a brain injury in the sense that it changes a little bit of the wiring and the biology in the brain. And the treatment, if you had -- usually, it`s group therapy. Other guys that have been through this and some medication, and sometimes --

SCHERER: You know, I tried to see a couple of therapists about it, but what I found for me was hard was to relate to somebody who has never experienced it.

PINSKY: That`s why I said, it`s usually a group. It`s usually a group of guys that have been there, and you can feel like --

SCHERER: Therapy, no. But I have, you know, had conversations with other vets and stuff, and it does help.

PINSKY: That`s -- I notice you shake your head a lot when he says someone who`s never been through this. That must have been a frustrating part trying to connect with these guys and understand them, and them saying you could never understand.

MCKIDD: Well, you can understand. I mean the debt that we owe them from everything they`ve done is huge. You know, it gave me, in my research, it gave me such respect for the bravery of these guys.

PINSKY: You know, this is the note, as long as you`re our soldier sitting here tonight, this is the note that everybody comes to when they deal with you guys, which is, hats off. We thank you.

SCHERER: Thank you very much.

PINSKY: We didn`t know or if we did know, we come to understand it fully. We owe you a debt. So, both you guys are staying with me. And we`re going to continue this discussion. And we will be joined by a therapist, actually, a psychiatrist, who started a program which provides free therapy to soldiers suffering from PTSD, so stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCKIDD: You know, I`m one of the lucky ones, thanks to the security provided by real life soldiers that put themselves in harm`s way every single day. I can just go to work in Hollywood and pretend to be a doctor who suffers from this ailment. I hope that the role I play in a small way brings some kind of awareness to this huge mental health challenge that our veterans are dealing with.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PINSKY: That is actor, Kevin McKidd, whose character on "Grey`s Anatomy" suffered from posttraumatic stress syndrome. Kevin recently took part in the habitat for heroes program, I think that`s what we are looking at there, a great organization which renovates, remodels, and builds homes for veterans. And Kevin, it`s so humbling to be around these guys, isn`t it?

MCKIDD: Unbelievably.

PINSKY: Yes.

MCKIDD: You know, I was tiling a bathroom and that`s such a tiny thing to do, but what`s great --

PINSKY: Something though.

MCKIDD: You got to do something. This whole community in Santa Clarita and across America are doing this to try and get back to what these guys have done.

PINSKY: Again, back with me in the room is Iraq war vet, Ken Scherer. He has experienced symptoms of posttraumatic stress. And I`m joined now by psychiatrist, Dr. Judith Broder.

In 2004, Dr. Broder started a Soldier Story, an organization that offers free, free, underline, psychological counseling to members of our armed services who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. And Dr. Broder, of course, PTSD must be a common symptom complex that presents at your clinic.

DR. JUDITH BRODER, PSYCHIATRIST: It`s a very common presenting symptom, but actually, more people come in saying that they`re having trouble with their families and readjusting to being home.

PINSKY: Is that code for PTSD?

BRODER: Well, once they come in and find someone who will listen to them, then we begin to hear all the other problems that are -- come around. And I was hearing what you had to say about it took you a long time to realize, and it`s very common for a wife or a mother to call us, and say help me, help my spouse, son, because they don`t think anything is wrong.

PINSKY: He thought they didn`t know that he was walking around the house, patrolling the house with a gun while everyone was asleep. They`re all like oh, they`re in the room scared.

BRODER: Right. Right.

PINSKY: But, you know, I realize we`ve taken somewhat of a sexist approach here tonight in dealing with this, because we haven`t talked about the women who come back with PTSD. I imagine you see a fair number of them as well. Are their presenting symptoms and complaints different or the cause of their PTSD different?

BRODER: Frequently, if they`ve been in combat, they have a double whammy because they`ve had the problems that come from combat, and close to 80 percent have been victims of military sexual trauma, which means that their buddies or someone with whom they`re serving has betrayed them in a horrible way.

PINSKY: Is it necessarily a horrible way or can there be sort of mild boundary violations that in that environment where you really have to trust your buddy means something profound to them? Or am I --

BRODER: I understand what you`re saying. So, they haven`t all been raped, but they all have felt assaulted.

PINSKY: Felt assaulted.

BRODER: Yes.

PINSKY: My goodness. Well, let`s look at some stats according to the HealMyPTSD website. In the past year alone, the number of diagnosed case of the PTSD in the military jumped 50 percent. Some of that may be awareness and reporting. Again, guys are more likely to report these days. One of every five military personnel returning from Iraq and Afghanistan has PTSD.

Twenty percent of soldiers who have been deployed in last six years have the syndrome. That`s over 300,000, and 17 percent of combat troops who suffer, as we talked about just now, who suffer from PTSD are women. Seventeen percent of women say they developed the PTSD due to sexual assault.

So, there you go. That`s the statistics on that. Kevin, did you talk to women as well as men when you did a research?

MCKIDD: I didn`t, actually. No, because, not for any reason. It just happened to be introduced to --

PINSKY: You were looking just a male character.

MCKIDD: Right. Right. But I think it`s a really good point, you know, on our show, it`s the focus of the show is not just on my character`s struggle through it, but also his partner and how she is managing to deal with it.

BRODER: So, one of the things that I think that you are doing a great job is that it is the families that suffer even as much the invisible wounds of war because they don`t get the kind of publicity.

PINSKY: You bet that lovely lady in the last half hour share who was a social worker and using all that skills now to take care of one.

BRODER: Right. Exactly.

PINSKY: Are you integrated with the VA? Am I right in saying the VA has really made a really diligent effort to try to deal with this syndrome.

BRODER: They certainly have made an effort. I believe they`re, of course, overwhelmed.

PINSKY: Yes.

BRODER: And they can`t provide all the care that they would like to provide, so what has happened in the past few years is that we`re getting an increasing number of referrals from the care givers at the VA, because they know they can`t do what we can do.

PINSKY: Got it. Now, Kevin`s character on "Grey`s Anatomy" eventually seeks help for his PTSD and has a breakthrough. So, let`s watch this, but I want to talk about the fact that in my experience, a lot of the PTSD suffers like Ken, himself, resist getting treatment. Let`s watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCKIDD: I`m not the guy going around, jumping people in their sleep.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know.

MCKIDD: It was a dream.

I can`t remember what I was dreaming about, but I was trying to save my own life. I wasn`t trying to hurt you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. You made a start. You made a start.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PINSKY: So, Dr. Broder, I find a little bit of resistance to treatment out there. People go to treatment, and they leave it because it becomes too evocative. What do you think that`s all about?

BRODER: Well, I think what happens in most settings, not ours, is there`s a limited number of sessions that are available. So, there is a pressure to get to the problem quickly, and I really don`t think you can do that.

PINSKY: So, we have this really skilled physician here. Is this somebody you would comfortable -- I`m not asking you to do it.

(LAUGHTER)

PINSKY: I`m just saying you kind of resisted it. Is it the character of the delivery system? If you had something like this, would you feel more apt to --

(CROSSTALK)

PINSKY: Well, I`m not saying you should. I`m just saying, I`m trying to figure out why they resist. Listen, I deal with addicts, alcoholics, sometimes. They resist because they don`t want the misery. They don`t want the pain. They don`t want the -- healing looks painful when, indeed, it`s something very nourishing and better on the other side.

SCHERER: Yes. Well, I mean, from my experience when I was trying to seek help, it was hard. It was hard to relive everything.

(CROSSTALK)

PINSKY: I don`t think you would make him revivify his misery. Right. That`s not the right way to go. So, we want to de-escalate all that so you don`t choke your wife in the middle of the night. We don`t want the patrol at night. We don`t want the choking. We want sort of the ability to tolerate, actually, closeness again in a quiet fashion, right?

BRODER: Exactly.

PINSKY: OK. Guys, I`ve got to go. It`s been an interesting discussion. Ken, Kevin, Dr. Broder, I really appreciate you being here. It`s important topic.

BRODER: Thank you.

PINSKY: Next, a Hollywood comedian, now, we`re talking to actor, and now, we talk to a comedian. You`ll see. I think he has similar reaction to you as he went overseas to cheer up servicemen and women and he got more than he bargained on. Jeffrey Ross joins us when HLN`s spotlight on homecoming continues after this. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB HOPE, COMEDIAN: Beautiful Nam Phong, Thailand. Nam Phong, that`s a Thai expression meaning you only have one, so keep it close to the ground.

(LAUGHTER)

HOPE: Guantanamo is a navy term, meaning, I hear you knocking, but you can`t come in.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PINSKY: That is, of course, the great Bob Hope entertaining troops in the old days. Decades later, a whole new crop of comedians has continued the tradition, including my next guest. Now, some think he is the meanest guy in comedy. He is famous for insults and infamous for celebrity roles, but when it comes to the troops and people protecting our country, suddenly, Jeff Ross strikes a nice cord.

Jeff was entertained and supported our troops back the U.S. (ph) for a long time. We welcome the director and camera operator of "Patriot Act," a Jeffrey Ross home movie. So, Jeff, I want to take you back to something. We`ve known each other for a decade and a half or something, and I remember standing in Jimmy Kimmel`s house just after you had gotten back from filming "Patriot Act."

And I can tell that it changed you. And you had trouble, at that point, expressing how. Now that`s sort of in the rearview mirror, how did that experience going over there with a camera and filming troops? Now, they`re all coming home, too. There`s a chance to reflect on all this.

JEFFREY ROSS, COMEDIAN: Right.

PINSKY: How did that change you?

ROSS: It made me much less cynical. You know, I grew up saying whatever I wanted. Freedom of speech, I took it for granted. You know, I was a kid who said the worst things in school you could possibly say.

PINSKY: You still manage to do a little bit of that, by the way.

ROSS: And I never really appreciated the country that I live in. I wasn`t patriotic. I didn`t even know what the military was. I thought the government and the military were essentially one big conglomerate. I had no idea, you know, these are volunteers and how diverse the military is, and I kind of went on a whim. Drew Carey who`s a friend of mine, he`s a marine.

PINSKY: Drew Carey was a marine?

ROSS: Well, apparently, you`re always a marine. It`s like being a black belt.

PINSKY: Right, right. I didn`t know he was a marine. That`s interesting.

ROSS: And the soldiers loved Drew Carey, because, you know, they love blondes with big boobs.

(LAUGHTER)

ROSS: So, on a drunken whim, he asked me to go, and I went. And it wasn`t until the next morning when I saw that they just bombed the U.N. headquarters in Baghdad. I was like holy Moly, what did I get myself into, and I tried to get out of it.

PINSKY: Oh, is that right?

ROSS: And I felt guilty and I went.

PINSKY: What did you think you were doing? You had the camera rolling? You know, this little video camera in your hand, right?

ROSS: Right.

PINSKY: And did you think you were doing something funny and it suddenly turned dark?

ROSS: I went almost as if to tell jokes but also kind of as a tourist.

PINSKY: Yes.

ROSS: I brought a home video camera thinking this, oh, this, will be cool. I`ll tell my friends what I saw. And as I got there, I realized I was a witness to history. We were getting access to the war that no journalist could get. Soldiers will open up to a comedian really quickly. And I got really candid conversations.

This is back when I could hold the camera outside the window, the door of the black hawks and shoot the Sunni triangle, and you got to see what Baghdad looked like into (INAUDIBLE) it`s all in the film. And I appreciate you mentioning that, and the USO has been a big supporter of that.

PINSKY: We`ve got about, believe it or not, like 30, 40 seconds left.

ROSS: Yes.

PINSKY: What did you learn from talking to the guys? The guys are now sort of welcoming home. What did you learn?

ROSS: I learned that they go on these missions as volunteers without a return trip ticket. I had a return trip ticket. They thanked me, I should be thanking them. We all should. Today is a great day that the troops are coming home.

PINSKY: Thanks for joining us. See you later.

END