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Soldiers Being Failed By Mental Health Services

By KJ Mullins     Mar 17, 2008 in Health
With the massive amount of United States funds paying for the war in Iraq mental health services for those who serve are not in the equation. As a result suicide, family breakups and depression is a commonplace factor of those who have been deployed.
Almost 4,000 men and women from the United States have died in the Iraqi war effort. Another 29,000 have been wounded during action. Still countless more carry with them the psychological scars that may haunt them for the rest of their lives.
This war, like those before it, put human beings on the front lines of death watching comrades in arms die. Carnage of massive proportions from suicide bombings and car bombs have an added impact of those serving in the Middle East. Add to that the trauma that comes from simply having to kill another and you have the makings of serious mental health issues.
A study out by Veterans for America found that the mental health care provided for soldiers did not meet the actual psychological burdens suffered by those who have had repeated deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Sooner or later, and likely sooner, we're going to hit the wall and something will have to change," said Bobby Muller, the founder of Veterans for America and a former Marine paralyzed while serving in Vietnam in 1969
The report criticized the Pentagon's policy of extended tours of duty that have gone from one year to a total of 15 months. There is also concerns about the lack of "down" time between those deployments.
One of the troops that were studied in the project was the 10th Mountain Division's second brigade combat team. During their most recent deployment out of the 3,500 soldiers that served 52 were killed in action and 270 were injured. Those that returned home reported low morale, spousal abuse and attempted suicides. When it came to mental health those soldiers had to wait up to two months from an initial appointment with a mental health expert after returning home.
A separate report released by the Army shows that 28 percent of soldiers have been experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder, or acute stress.
Since five years ago when the U.S. entered into the war in Iraq severe stress, emotional, alcohol or family problems had risen more than 85 percent. In 2002 375 soldiers attempted suicide. Compare that to the more than 2,000 soldiers in 2006 that tried to take their lives. It is not hard to see that mental health services are needed for those dealing with the stress of war.
While we've made great strides this year to increase our mental health provider capacity, we acknowledge the shortage of mental health providers, not just here but across America," unit commander Major General Michael Oates said.
"We welcome the opinions of outside interest groups, but we're more interested in well-researched solutions to these problems," spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Paul Swiergosz added in a statement.
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