My name is Rod Deaton, and I am a psychiatrist who from 2009 until 2017 served combat veterans in a variety of settings, public and private, including at the United State Department of Defense and at the United States Veterans Health Administration. As a result of these positions, I was able to work with and follow many brave men and women over an extended period of time and had the privilege of hearing their stories and being part of their recovery.
Before 2009, however, I had been—and still, to some degree, am—in the private sector, working in Indianapolis as a solo practitioner doing short and long-term psychotherapy. As a result, I am well aware of the “cultural differences” that often exist between professionals in the community and men and women who have served in the military—and most especially those who have served in combat. I tried to bring to my work with combat veterans my ears and heart as a psychotherapist, and the men and women bravely brought me their lives in return.
I have never been in the military, nor had the military previously played a substantial role in my own life. My only previous, extended experience with ex-military personnel had been my service as a psychiatric resident at the VA Hospital in Durham, North Carolina, where I trained at the Duke University Medical Center in the early 1980’s.
At a much deeper level, however, combat and its aftermath reside in me daily. During World War II, my father’s eldest brother, a dashing, talented basketball player from North High School in Des Moines, Iowa, was shot down over France. It was not until some time in the 1980’s that a relative discovered where he had been buried.
From all accounts that I have gleaned (my mother’s family knew my father’s family well), this single event devastated my grandparents and their children. My father was in elementary school, and even to this day cannot recall the events of that period without significant emotion. My grandparents were changed irrevocably, and thus, in spite of their best efforts, they simply could not be the parents to my father and his younger brothers as they had been to my uncle. My grandmother died in the late 1950’s hoping still that my Uncle Raymond might show up at the door one day. I never heard my grandfather speak of his eldest son up to the time of his death at age 91. The death of my uncle, or better, its meaning, infiltrated my generation as well, and to this day a part of me still understands, at a level that I can’t fully fathom, what it means to lose one’s beloved child to a violence that is bigger than all of us, a violence that at one level, sadly, makes sense, a violence that on another level, sadly, is forever senseless.
My immediate family moved to Indianapolis from Des Moines when I was a teenager, and I grew up there, received my BA in psychology from Purdue University and my MD from Indiana University. I then went to Duke University for my adult psychiatric training, followed by a stint in child and adolescent psychiatry training at the Children’s Hospital of Boston, at the Harvard Medical School. At that point, being young, in no debt, and far too ambitious for my own good, I entered the Harvard Law School, from which I graduated magna cum laude in 1990 (a year ahead of both former President Obama and current United States Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, my one claim to fame). My wife and I returned to Indianapolis soon afterwards, and for five years I worked in the public mental health sector in central Indiana, at which point I began my private practice.
I have been a member of the volunteer faculties of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and of the Indiana University School of Medicine, where I was an Associate Professor of Clinical Psychiatry. There I supervised psychiatry residents in both psychotherapy and addiction psychiatry. I continue occasionally to give professional and lay presentations on veterans who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance use disorders (SUD).
My wife and I have been married since 1989, and we are the proud parents of three young-adult children, along with a fine son-in-law. I’m a complete geek when it comes to fun: I read, catch up with my Twitter feed (more often than I should), sleep—and, on occasions, write.
It was at the Law School that I learned the power of words—and their wonder. If the words of this blog can therefore help you in some way to make life better or to make the life of some struggling veteran better, then I will have done what I wanted to do.