Mental Health Problems Among Soldiers and Veterans

I stumbled upon rawstory.com where I read about a report that CBS released detailing that suicide among veterans is double that of non-veterans. The Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) estimates that 5,000 veterans will commit suicide this year. Actually, the wording verbatim is "5000 suicides among veterans can be expected this year. It's sad that we've come to the point where we expect veterans to just kill themselves.

The Red State blog highlighted a notable quote from the story:

It found that veterans were more than twice as likely to commit suicide in 2005 than non-vets. (Veterans committed suicide at the rate of between 18.7 to 20.8 per 100,000, compared to other Americans, who did so at the rate of 8.9 per 100,000.)

One age group stood out. Veterans aged 20 through 24, those who have served during the war on terror. They had the highest suicide rate among all veterans, estimated between two and four times higher than civilians the same age. (The suicide rate for non-veterans is 8.3 per 100,000, while the rate for veterans was found to be between 22.9 and 31.9 per 100,000.)
I'll reiterate the obvious that everyone's been stating: Something needs to be done.
In general, the rate for veterans needs to significantly decrease, but I find the rate of suicide in the 20-24 age group alarming.
What's the disconnect between that age range as opposed to the other age ranges?
The issue here that needs to be addressed is psychological effects from the war resulting in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
While I'm sure that psychiatric assistance may come into play for some veterans, all veterans should receive counseling and therapy.
We'll see how the VA handles this information going forward.

In a related matter, USA Today published an article, based on an Army study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, detailing how duty in Iraq affects Army and National Guard soldiers.

The mental toll of fighting in Iraq affects 20% of active-duty soldiers and 42% of National Guard troops and reservists, according to an Army study, which also found that most mental health problems didn't surface until months after troops returned home.

Army psychiatrists examined the results of routine health screenings administered to nearly 90,000 soldiers – active-duty, National Guard and reservists – returning from Iraq in 2005 and 2006. They found about 25,000 suffering mental health problems, ranging from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression to substance abuse and family conflict, according to the study published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study also found that mental health problems did not surface as the soldiers left Iraq, but rather, that they appeared about three to six months after a tour of duty. Considering that soldiers are no longer in an unfamiliar area where their top concern is their safety, the appearance of mental health issues upon returning to the U.S. should be of no surprise.

One problem uncovered by the study was the Army's difficulty in treating alcohol abuse. Out of nearly 7,000 soldiers who admitted a drinking problem, 29 signed up for rehabilitation services. The authors blamed this on a policy that requires commanders be notified when a soldier enrolls in alcohol-abuse treatment programs.

I cannot provide any suggestions on how to change a tradition of pretentiousness in the Army: A solider pretending that nothing is wrong while turmoil rages inside his mind. Soldiers are expected and trained to be strong, to not be afraid, and to face their fears. Many of them when on active duty exemplify that attitude. However, working as a soldier is just that – it's work. Just like accountants or editors who are trained in their field, soldiers are trained in their jobs. When a soldier returns from duty, he is a normal human being like the accountant that clocks out at 5 in the evening. Perhaps that analogy might explain how a  soldier struggles with these problems when he is "off the clock," so to speak.

The emergence of mental health issues among soldiers – not just PTSD but also forms of abuse: drug, alcohol, violent – shows that the military needs to engage in preemptive action to combat these problems before they arise. (The puns were not intended, but I thought they were somewhat clever.)

I'm honored

Out of nowhere, I recently discovered that I’d won a top depression blog award from PsychCentral. This goes to show how delusional I am. I figured that I’d been on a nice blogging streak and now that it kind of died (as work and life picked up), my readership had too. I haven’t checked any of my personal e-mails for the past three or four months now so many of the comments or e-mails I may have received are still unread.

I’ve been very out of touch with the psych industry for the past few months. As many of you know, my place of employment – yes, I am STILL at the same job I’ve been wanting to get out of – has blocked access to blog hosting sites such as blogspot and wordpress. (They are now blocking typepad as well so I can’t even access the front page of my own site.) There are a few sites I can still get to, i.e. furiousseasons.com or trouble.philadelphiaweekly.com, but there are many others which I can’t access and/or comment on.

I hope to continue blogging again. I’ve put a lot of work and research into many of my posts in the past. It got to a point where my brain just fizzed out. I cannot promise frequent updates – daily or weekly – as I have done in the past. (Although if someone paid me to blog…) As of this post, I have not checked my personal e-mail. I will try to do so. Please be patient with me if you’ve e-mailed me several months ago and have not received a reply.
I’ve recently begun lugging my (personal) laptop to work with me, so I hope get up to speed with my blogroll and perhaps any new blogs people may recommend.

Thanks so much for the award. The past few months have been challenging in many ways and I feel fortunate to know that I have been able to touch the lives of the people who read this.

P.S. I’m working on something called NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, for the month of November. I’m working on reaching a 50,000 word count and so far I’m a little more than halfway there. My time in the month of November will be devoted to completing the novel so I can win another award. (The award of patting myself on the back for a job well done.) I’ll play catch up in December.

Read it. It speaks for itself.

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