Defense Task Force on Mental Health to Convene
> 7/14/2006 10:12:38 AM

For the first time since its creation by Congress last year, the Defense Task Force on Mental Health is set to meet, the Hartford Courant reports. Sen. Barbara Boxer, who sponsored the bill that brought the task force into being, has asked the group to focus on three specific areas of inquiry as it embarks on its investigations. They are:
  • establishing uniform standards governing when troops with post-traumatic stress disorder or other serious mental illnesses can be deployed
  • deciding which psychiatric medications are compatible with combat deployments
  • drafting rules addressing the authority of commanders to overrule a mental health professional's conclusion that a service member is not mentally fit for combat
Certainly, the fact that this task force will be beginning to look more closely at mental health issues as they relate to armed service in our ongoing operations around the world is a huge positive step. As we discussed earlier this week, the case of Stephen Green, a young private who was discharged and later indicted on the brutal rape and murder of a 14-year-old Iraqi woman, has again stirred interest in the way soldiers are screened for mental illness and later handled once in the service.

The New York Times reported today on the fitness of Stephen Green before he joined the Army. According to their story, Green was a high school dropout and with three misdemeanor convictions. In speaking to those who knew him, they paint a portrait of a young man facing, if not well defined mental illness, then troubling behavior and drug abuse issues. Nevertheless he was granted a waiver from the Army, and now sits, less than a full year later, in jail awaiting trial.

The story also does a nice job of trying to portray the conditions that Green's unit faced in one of the most brutal, battle torn regions of Iraq. His commanding officer, writing to his brother in the States, highlights the worst part of this whole situation from a morale perspective:

Mr. Green’s commanding officer, Lt. Col. Thomas Kunk, told his brother in a recent letter that “his worst fears, the nightmare every commander dreams of, has basically come true,’’ the brother, Peter Kunk, said in an interview describing the letter.

“The three or four people have apparently been involved in a situation that reflects so badly on the Army and all the people in these brigades and companies,” Mr. Kunk said.

To be sure, the heinous actions of four or five men, should not reflect adversely on the entire Army, but unfortunately, that is the situation that they now face. The issue of the mental fitness of recruits takes on such a high priority because of incidents like this one. The ongoing occupation in Iraq is a stressful and often trying one for those involved. But the nature of the experience is different from what most cadets were prepared for during their training. This new conflict requires different skills like patience, compassion and a sharp understanding of the need for violence or diplomacy. For recruits like Green and thousands of others who are receiving waivers, there are no guarantees that these things are understood.

It will be important in the very beginning that the Task Force on Mental Health examines the overall picture from recruitment to training to deployment. The goal should be to create a complete picture of how to best utilize and care for the limited troops that we have. Keeping them healthy and working with a clear head will only benefit the overall operation.

Hat tip to Trouble with Spikol!

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