Personal musings. Views are my own.

The military and mental health

An article in the Hartford Courant last spring talked about mental health in the military, and exposed some really depressing facts about the military’s lack of support for troupes who aren’t doing so well:

“Despite a congressional order that the military assess the mental health of all deploying troops, fewer than 1 in 300 service members see a mental health professional before shipping out.

Once at war, some unstable troops are kept on the front lines while on potent antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs, with little or no counseling or medical monitoring.

And some troops who developed post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in Iraq are being sent back to the war zone, increasing the risk to their mental health.”

Here are some further notes in context of the information in the article. Many anti-depressant drugs require close supervision of a counsellor while taking them, because in the first several weeks, the drugs will exaggerate the feelings they’re meant to help, putting the patient at a greater risk of hurting themselves and others:

“Some service members who experienced depression or stress before or during deployments to Iraq described being placed on Zoloft, Wellbutrin and other antidepressants, with little or no mental health counseling or monitoring. Some of the drugs carry warnings of an increased risk of suicide, within the first weeks of their use.”

“‘I can’t imagine something more irresponsible than putting a soldier suffering from stress on SSRIs, when you know these drugs can cause people to become suicidal and homicidal,’ said Vera Sharav, president of the Alliance for Human Research Protection, a patient advocacy group. ‘You’re creating chemically activated time bombs.’”

In addition, Iraq is a unique war in that soldier are returning from war and being resent to fight in the same war at such a large scale. Some say that sending a soldier back into a traumatic environment will only magnify the stress and the impact of the war on their psyche:

“More than 378,000 active-duty, Reserve and National Guard troops have served more than one tour in Iraq or Afghanistan, representing nearly a third of the 1.3 million troops who have been deployed, according to Department of Defense statistics. That repeat exposure to combat could dramatically increase the percentage of soldiers and Marines who experience PTSD, major depression or other disorders, some experts say.

Recent studies have estimated that at least 18 percent of returning Iraq veterans are at risk of developing PTSD after just one combat tour.

‘This is uncharted territory. You’re looking at guys being extended or sent back multiple times into an extremely stressful situation, which is different than past wars. … I think the number of troops that will be affected, it will be a huge number.’”

I’ve been sick as a dog the past few days. I took a sick day yesterday and stayed in bed all day, which is a first for me, I almost never stay home cause I’m sick. I felt like hell all day. I feel a million times better today, just a bit light-headed, I’m in such a daaaaaze… but hopefully I’ll get over it soon. New Year’s was good, since both Sheena and I were sick, we didn’t do much of anything. I finally saw Memento! A damn good movie. I saw the first episode of the first season of The Wire, now in it’s, what, fourth season? I got some catching up to do on that one… Lol, but it looks really good.