Tag Archives: mental health

Mental Health Issues Rise Among Veterans

Many Americans believe their nation is now free of the Bush years because there is a new president in power. However, the Bush legacy lingers on within the judiciary and certainly within the Veterans Administration. A recent study reveals that 106,726 veterans of the Iraq war have sought assistance from the VA health care system for mental health issues. This figure is much lower than the Armed forces which claim only about 62,979 soldiers have required aid in the area of mental health. The difference in numbers can readily be explained by noting once members of the military leave the service they no longer fear shame and humiliation because they claim to have mental health issues. Karen Seal, who wrote the report, points out “veterans seeking VA care may have less stigma and career-related concerns than do active-duty military personnel about disclosing mental health problems.”

The legacy of Bush will linger decades as PSTD issues emerge during the lives of veterans. George will be chopping wood in Texas while those who served their country struggle to get it through the night in one piece. Drug use, alcohol, smoking and a host of other issues may last for years to come and never be calculated in the list of those who were wounded or died in combat.

Open Doors Of VA To Active Service Members!

Under new bipartisan legislation co-sponsored by Barak Obama, Kit Bond, and other senators, active and reserve service m embers would be eligible for m ental health counseling from one of the 207 veterans’ centers operated by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The bill would extend military survivor benefits in cases of suicides among service members with a history of service-related mental health problems, an unprecedented policy change that would extend active-duty survivor benefits beyond the end of service for those who are not receriving retired pay.

According to Senator Bond, the bill “not only opens the door to additional resoruces but also lightens the load on our currently over-tasked specialists. There are grossly insufficient numbers of military behavioral health specialists t provide care ou troops need.” An interesting item in the bill provides incentives for veteran to become mental health specialists.

It is wonderful that finally mental health care issues for soldiers and veterans is beginning to receive the attention of Congress, but, isn’t there need for a congressional investigation into failure on the part of the Bush administration to address these issues over the past seven years?

Mental Health Personnel In Short Supply In Iraq

The famous TV program, MASH, depicted a nice psychologist who would run up to the unit on a moment’s notice if called, but those days are over as far as the war in Iraq is concerned. Last May, the Army had funds to hire 200 additional counselors, but as of today, there were only able to find 158 willing to serve in a situation requiring constant deployments and a shattered personal life. A recent study revealed only about one-third of soldiers in Iraq are able to access a counselor within a reasonable time period. Most mental health personnel hve to travel in an armed convoy that might take up to 40 hours to finally reach those in combat zones. As Colonel Sharon McBride notes, “they can’t be in every place at the same time.”

Mental health personnel are required to sign up for an eight year hitch which hampers recruitment, particularly since the armed forces are competing against the private sector. Perhaps, it is time to shorten the sign up period and face the reality of a war being fought in which society has other concerns at the moment.

Mental Care Hit Or Miss Claim US Soldiers

Service members told Congress that mental health care for post-traumatic stress disorder is good– if they can get it. In one case, a suicidal soldier asked for help and got it, in another, a soldier deployed to Iraq asked for help, and when it was denied, he killed himself. Military medical personnel told Congress there are many issues hampering the development of an effective PTS progrm including recruiting and retaining mental health providers, educating officers about symptoms and causes of suicide, and finding proper tretment for PTSD. Ward Casscells, assistant defense secretary for health affair, insisted there still remained many problems, “treatment is a struggle. We don’t know vey wll what treatments work.”

The father of Pfc. Jason Scheuerman, had to file Freedom of Information requests to finally obtained information about the death of his son. A chaplalin said in a sworn statement that he believed Jason “obsessed with suicide” but the brigade psychologist thought the troubled young man was engaged in some form of manipulation to get out of combat. Jason committed suicide. Major Bruce Gannaway lost his foot in Iraq and was evaluted at Walter Reed Army Hospital for mental health issues while under heavy medication.

The Congressmen heard numerous stories and incidents of members of the military who fought in combat only to be denied proper mental health assistance. the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are among the strangest in American history. The invasion of Iraq was based on a Bush lie and subsequent efforts have been characterized by incompetence and inability to find the right political and military policies. These are not wars in which soldiers have a clear rationale why they are fighting. There is insufficient military personnel available to handle the fighting so the same men and women must return for one deployment after another. Is it any wonder many feel emotional stress?

Mental Health Care For Combat Veterans Failing

More than six years after the military began combat operations in the Middle East, the Army is still failing to provide its soldiers in the 10th Mountain division with adequate mental health service at Fort Drum, according to a report issues Wednesday. The report by the Veterans for America cited problems with understaffing, reliance on questionnnaires to identify soldiers in need of treatment and a previaling attitude at the company level that regards mental health issues in an atmosphere more attuned to secrecy, shame and doubt. Some soldiers “in fact wait up to two months before a single appointment can be scheduled. In short, access to care for our returning warriors at Fort Drum is woefully inadequate,” claims the study entitled, “Fort Drum: A Great Burden, Inadequate Assistance.”

Senator Hillary Clinton denounced the policy at Fort Drum and, undoubtedly, there will be other complaints. General Oates, who is in charge of the division, indicates there are problems and wants to look into the situation. Since 2001, the division has been in combat nearly 40 months, but the men and women are given inadequate “dwell time” back home as they continually go back to fighting.

Despite our knowledge concerning mental health issues for those engaged in extensive combat, the two most common ways in which soldiers get access to treatment is via self-reporting or self-referral. The warrior too often fears admitting fears and anxieties and thus problems lie dormant and fester until the individual becomes emotionally ill. Asking soldiers to fill out a questionnaire doesn’t take time, but it doesn’t identify problems. There is need for more extensive one-on-one consultation. This costs more in the short run, but saves people and society in the long run.

Mentally Ill Children Locked In With Adults!

In the year 2008, mentally ill children are being systematically locked up with violent adults at several institutions in Sweden. Lena Nyberg, Children’s Ombundsman in Sweden, expressed her anger at these policies which directly violate the UN Convention on the Rights of Children. Article 37 of that document states, “every child deprived of liberty shall be separated from adults.” However, many closed psychiatric departments across Sweden do not follow regulations and at several institutions children are mixed with adults, both systematically and in the case of emergency.

The most common complaint in such situations is that some children are too difficult to handle and thus cannot be placed with other children, but the newspaper, Svenska Dagbladtet, found cases in which mixing occurred due to lack of space or staff resources. Sofia Akerman was 16 years-old when her children’s ward was closed due to lack of resources. She was relocated to an adult ward where “the atmosphere and milieu is not suited to children. Brutality is part of daily life in a completely different way to that within” a children’s ward.

There is something wrong when a wealthy nation such as Sweden is unable to offer disturbed children safe and comfortable environments in which to work through emotional issues. Sweden is not a third world nation struggling to survive and it is important that its children be afforded institutional care that is commensurate with the standards of the nation.y

Number Of Suicides Continues Rise In The Army

The United States Army has been attempting over the past few years to address issues that lead members of the military to kill themselves, but the latest figures indicate success is far from an accomplished goal. As many as 121 soldiers commtted suicide in 2007 wich is an increase of 20% over the figures for 2006. The number who have tried to commit sicide or injured themselves for some other reason jumped six-fold in the last several years– from 350 in 2002 to about 2,100 incidents last year. These incidents come despite a host of efforts to improvemental health care that arises from being deployed and redeployed over an extended period of time. According to Col. Elspeth Ritchie, psychiatry consultant to the Army surgeon general, “We have been perturbed by the rise despite all of our efforts.”

Statistically, the rate of suicide per 100,000 men has risen from a low of 9.1% in 2001 to a high of 17.5% in 2006. Most probably long extended separation from spouse, children and family has been a factor resulting in attempts at suicide. Orindarily, people don’t attempt suicide as a result of direct encounter with combat, but it more often occurs during periods of depression brought on by personal and family issues.

Senator John McCain recently said American troops might be in the Middle East for about another “100 years.” If so, we can expect continued mental health issues.