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Army: HBO documentary could trigger stress disorder

By Barbara Starr
CNN

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Medical personnel work on a patient in a scene from HBO's "Baghdad ER."

SPECIAL REPORT

• Interactive: Who's who in Iraq
• Interactive: Sectarian divide

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Army surgeon general is warning that the HBO documentary "Baghdad ER" is so graphic that military personnel watching it could experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

In a memo dated May 9 and obtained by CNN, Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley said the film "shows the ravages and anguish of war."

"Those who view this documentary may experience many emotions," he said in the memo. "If they have been stationed in Iraq, they may re-experience some symptoms of post-traumatic stress, such as flashbacks or nightmares." (Watch what made a bloodied soldier in Baghdad plead for his life --3:33)

HBO is releasing the documentary on the operation of the 86th Combat Support Hospital in Ibn Sina, Iraq.

The film will premiere Monday at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History in Washington as well as on 22 Army posts.

It airs Sunday on HBO -- a division of Time Warner, the parent company of CNN -- and will replay on Memorial Day.

Kiley, who has watched the film with senior Army officials, said it is "an extremely graphic and moving look at how we care for severely wounded service members."

"This film will have a strong impact on viewers and may cause anxiety for some soldiers and family members."

He noted that "some may have strong reactions to the medical procedures such as the amputation of a limb."

Kiley said military medical treatment facilities should be ready to help troops and family members affected by the film. He suggested that mental health facilities should extend their treatment hours and reach out to the troops proactively.

Army officials said they fully support the film and note the Army gave the filmmakers access to the hospital. But privately they said it is so graphic that senior leaders do not want to turn Monday's premiere in Washington into a social occasion so many will not be attending, preferring to let the limelight fall on the military personnel.

After screening the film, officials said they are aware that some may use it to make an anti-war message.

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