Soldiers and Their Families Not Receiving Sufficient Mental Health Care
> 5/3/2007 11:41:42 AM

In the latest update in an unacceptably slow-moving crisis, the American Psychiatric Association reports that the military has no well-coordinated plan to provide much needed mental health, recovery and substance abuse services to military personnel returning from the Middle East and their families in the States.

The report, completed by the Association's Board of Trustees Ad Hoc Work Group on Veterans Affairs and Military Initiatives, cites not only the obvious shortage of such programs and the dearth of professionals on hire to administer them to returning veterans; it also advocates significantly greater funding for evidence-based research on PTSD, traumatic brain injury and the many other afflictions so prominent among our soldiers, as well as developing new programs specifically designed to address the mental health needs of women in the military and public relations campaigns aiming to eliminate the stigma still carried by treatment for mental illness. While praising the general spirit of the military's mental health offerings, they also describe psychiatric services for the children and spouses of military families as "very limited" and suggest that soldiers living in rural areas far from veteran's care centers and women suffering from combat and sexual abuse trauma are less likely to receive the treatments they need and deserve.

When expanding its definition to include psychosocial problems along with PTSD and severe depression, at least one-third of returning soldiers qualify as suffering from mental illness. Personnel under 25 are especially susceptible to mental and emotional scars borne by the very nature of combat and the stresses of the large-scale experiment in occupational policing that the War in Iraq has become. Of course, those who've served are also much more likely to revert to substance abuse or suicidal ideation on returning, and the group recommended the development of offices dedicated specifically to addressing these issues. The group claims that:

"Veterans with coexisting substance abuse can face deductions of benefits and difficulty in accessing benefits and treatment."

Critics assert that the report belittles the VA as an ineffective group all but indistinguishable from the defense department when they have, in fact, hired 15% more psychologists and expanded their services while treating more than 200,000 soldiers returning from active duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. The group's argument does not question the validity of the VA, only the extent to which they are sufficiently fulfilling duties owed to every single American serving in the military. If the VA cannot adequately perform the services for which it was designed, major re-organization or, at the very least, increased and more highly scrutinized funding efforts are in order. Insisting that the APA's report is "replete with errors," the Department of Defense has begun to conduct their own investigation, its conclusions to be presented to the Secretary of Defense in May. In the wake of very similar developments regarding the poor medical treatment afforded returning veterans at Walter Reed and the way in which the resulting scandals were handled by their public representatives, we can only wait, with ironic anticipation, for a report that will most certainly not serve as an admirable display of brutally honest self-scrutiny.

No comments yet.

Post Your Comments

Post a comment
Email Address:
Verification Code:
Input the 8 characters you see above:


Drug Abuse
Sexual Addiction
Eating Disorders
Alzheimer's Disease

About TOL | Contact Us | Defining Behavioral Fitness | For Healthcare Professionals | Links | Privacy Policy