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.)

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6 Comments

  1. December 19, 2007 at 5:22 pm

    What theys guys and gals have to deal with once they come home is very hard. They have many reasons to be depressed

  2. Sabrina said,

    January 5, 2008 at 2:25 pm

    The subject of veterans and their emotional wellfare is something that I feel strongly about. My father served in Vietnam. He returned home with a heroine addiction and my mom became addicted as well. He tried to get help quitting the drug through the VA back in 1970. The army said there was nothing they could do. My mom died as a result of the drugs. I was four-years-old. Not only did my dad have the trama of the war but my mom’s death too.
    After all these(36) years of tragedy, of seeing my father’s rage on me and my brother and his ex wives, all these years of our whole family being basically destroyed, we FINALLY found out why. He has PTSD.
    A couple of years ago some of dad’s friends that also served in the war, began talking about the problems they had, had for years (anger, headaches, etc.) and they felt it was from the time they served. His friends went to a hospital for veterans in Denver and discovered that yes, it was from their time served. They told Dad about the experience and how it helped them and encouraged him to go. It was very difficult to get the ok from VA but he finally got to go and it was like turning on a light bulb for our world.
    Growing up, in constant fear and depression and…the list could go on and on, has left my brother and I with all kinds of emotional disorders. My brother has been diagnosed with PTSD, manic depression, etc. And I have depression, anxiety, ocd, etc. But bottom line is now that we know what caused our dad’s suffering, it has made a huge difference in our healing and our family IS finally healing.
    Here’s my deal. He asked for help years ago and didn’t get it and you would not believe the bs he had to go through to go to Denver. He is still trying to get disability (much deserved) and you would think he was asking our government for the moon. If it weren’t for my dad’s wife now, helping him with paper work and being understanding of his PTSD, he probably couldn’t have endured the process of trying to get help. IT SHOULDN’T BE THAT HARD!!
    There needs to be more awareness and understanding of the residuals of the trama soldiers receive. Especially, for the men coming home from Iraq who might ignore the symptoms. I don’t know if it’s as difficult for them to get help now as it’s been for Vietnam Vets, but if it is, maybe more awareness will also prompt the powers that be to want to take care of them.

  3. L K Tucker said,

    January 10, 2008 at 10:14 am

    VisionAndPsychosis.Net, a five-year project, points to a little known problem with human physiology for the reason there is a delay in symptoms for returning vets.
    They begin to have problems six months after their return because they settle down to some type employment and activities that cause Subliminal Distraction in that time period.
    In addition to suicides there have been sudden unexplained disappearances.
    Perform the demonstration of subliminal sight and habituation in peripheral vision to understand how exposure from Subliminal Distraction begins.

  4. Stephany said,

    January 26, 2008 at 12:13 pm

    I hope you are well, and am thinking of you.

  5. steven thiel said,

    November 19, 2008 at 3:37 pm

    got out in 91 after the sand box sister passed away 25 nov 07 now is 1 year after that coming up having a real time coping with it lost job in aug all has gone down the craper ever since 25 nov 07 is there any hope?

  6. Rey Chew said,

    March 18, 2010 at 7:11 pm

    Look I have PTSD and major depression. Society does not allow people to grieve or heal. When you are ill, physically or mentally everyone needs rest and time to heal. I have a feeling the major reason why PTSD has symptoms of violence and rage is simply because one you feel powerless because of what happened and it causes rage, but also because with the demand of bills, responsibilities, etc. an already ill and traumatized brain cannot cope with the extra stress. There needs to be retreats for healing and resting allowing people to gain control back. Secondly, People with PTSD and depression need to stick themselves to a very strict daily routine no matter how they feel. Staying with a routine helps feeling some sense of accomplishment and not letting responsibilities pile up. If you neglect yourself, others and responsibilities it will cause one to feel een more stressed. The key is to trick the brain to the opposite of what it is feeling until it becomes habit. i want to get over my PTSD and
    Depression and we have to stop feeling bad for asking for help. Brave and strong people do get PTSD and society needs to stop making people feel bad for what they have. And, PTSD and depression is NO excuse for abusing another person. If I was in a wheel chair or had cancer I wouldn’t be allowed to kick or punch someone. There are strong emotions with PTSD and yes, it is the brain involved, but we need to learn especially for men to turn that rage into sadness. Men are not taught to cry because u don’t feel in control when crying…u feel weak. Anger makes one feel in control, but actually u are out of control. need to teach people how to cry and not feel bad about it so PTSD and depression do not turn to rage. Let’s not judge, but work together for solutions. Let’s stop making excuses for what we have and stand up and try and help cure ourselves….we have PTSD, but does not mean we abuse our families and give them depression and PTSD along with us!!!


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