This will be an issue that will impact the military for years to come:
Thirty percent of U.S. troops surveyed have developed stress-related mental health problems three to four months after coming home from the Iraq war, the Army’s surgeon general said Thursday.
The survey of 1,000 troops found problems including anxiety, depression, nightmares, anger and an inability to concentrate, said Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley and other military medical officials. A smaller number of troops, often with more severe symptoms, were diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, a serious mental illness.
The 30 percent figure is in contrast to the 3 percent to 5 percent diagnosed with a significant mental health issues immediately after they leave the war theater, according to Col. Elspeth Ritchie, a military psychiatrist on Kiley’s staff. A study of troops who were still in the combat zone in 2004 found 13 percent experienced significant mental health problems.
Soldiers departing a war zone are typically given a health evaluation as they leave combat, but the Army is only now instituting a program for follow-up screenings three to six months later, said Kiley, speaking to reporters at a breakfast meeting.
Two things- I don’t have the data to compare these bumbers to previous examples from other wars, and Idoubt seriously the military has anything comparable to examine. On the up side, it is nice to know they are proactively dealing with the mental health issues rather than waiting years or simply denying there is a problem
It would be interesting to compare to previous wars, but I’d be hesitant to say that the perception of how just or unjust a war is doesn’t matter as much as how difficult the war is. Something that I worry that many on the left will not be able to resist trying to refute. It might be easy to believe that this is a result of soldiers being sent to Iraq with a belief that they’d be mobbed by thankful Iraqi and the reality driving them mad, but that’s probably more Hollywood than reality.
I had heard a that they were doing follow ups a little while back and was quite happy about it. I saw first hand the way someone was reacting 4-6 months after returning. His eyes never stopped moving, his back was always to the wall and loud noises made him jump a mile. This was in a group of people he had known for years.
None of this had to do with just/unjust. It was simply the reaction of a man who had spent many months fearing for his life 24/7 and having snipers and morters as a constant companian.
thehim, I can’t speak for everyone on the left, but as one who leans that way and who is a veteran, I can tell you most in the military don’t weigh themselves down a lot with concerns about how just a war they’re involved in is. There is a broad array of thoughts and motivations at work, within a given individual. A lot of it relates to one’s group, a lot is subjective and all of it is affected by changes in situation.
Vietnam was a spectacular exception for a number of reasons specific to that war and to American society during that period. After about ’68 lot of draftees were politically and practically opposed to the war by the time they showed up at boot camp.
Your point about the difficulty of the war being of greater importance is a good one.
I’m sure some soldiers express chagrin over lack of appreciation by the locals in sarcasm and black humor. I doubt it’s something they brood over in any serious way — unless it’s a case of ingrates acting out with explosives.
I think that war definitely leaves a mark on the psyche, and I am glad they are getting help. There were plenty of good reasons my grandfather never talked about war.
John, I not only welcome the military doing screening and studies of PTSD, I’ve said for years this country would be wise to invest in serious, comprehensive basic research into mental illness in all forms.
As our country becomes more populous and the places people prefer to live and work become more crowded, the percentage of mentally ill seems to increase. More ominously, the difficulties, expense and danger the mentally ill cause themslves and others seems to escalate. Certainly, the potential for harm to others increases geometrically. We need to know a lot more about etiology and, obviously, work to develop better treatments than pills that those in need may or may not continue to take.
There was a great Frontline episode about this and how the Army is trying to change the stigma that traditionally has been attached to PTSD. If you have a high speed connection you can watch the whole thing at the link. Frontline rules.
The only thing I care about is that they get the help they need.
I sure hope this program gets funded adequately. Early treatment of PTSD makes a big difference in patients’ long-term outcomes. The least we owe the people who fight our country’s battles is optimal treatment for the resulting psychological wounds.
I have no doubt that significant numbers of soldiers returning from Iraq suffer from mental health problems. At the same time, it’s important to remember that the American Psyciatric Association has in fact “lowered the bar” regarding symptomology as it relates to both “stress” and PTSD.
In one way this is a good thing because many stress disorders when left untreated can become more serious and lead to chronic diseases like PTSD, depression, and even suicide.
On the other hand, it makes John’s question moot about comparing figures from different wars. By using the same criteria presently used by the APA, I have no doubt that we’d find similar or even worse figures from Viet Nam, Korea, and WWII.
NPR had a local bit on the Walter Reed Hospital and dealing with the severe injuried/amputees. Found the percentage suffering from PTSD while at WRH was at about 7-11%, far less than non-injured, up until they left the support structure that was WRH where it blossomed to “average” levels.
I wish them well.
Unfortunately, war does not leave a mark on the psyche of chickenhawk politicians and war sympathizers who will be just as quick to send our troops out in to harms way the next time.
Oh so true.
I agree that ptsd, depression, adjustment disorder, addiction are often-hidden costs of war that too many overlook.
That said, we should note tht any sort of finding of significant service-connected disability produces economic benefits. For example, I was told by a former JAG buddy that my kids could go to California university tuition free if I had my medical papers showing service connected 10% disability (even from a blown out knee while doing PT). MDs in he service know this and tend to advise those leaving the service so that all benefits can be enjoyed. A bit like workers comp.
Still, I have no doubt the mental health impacts are serious and sevre, at least for a period of months or years. They need treatment. But we should take statistics from medical files with a grain of salt and not assume disabilities will necessarily require years of therapy and prozac.