Making things worse
Along with MRE's and gun oil, what many
soldiers need to function
Some troops headed back to Iraq are mentally ill
By Rick Rogers
March 19, 2006
Besides bringing antibiotics and painkillers, military personnel nationwide are heading back to Iraq with a cache of antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications.
The psychotropic drugs are a bow to a little-discussed truth fraught with implications: Mentally ill service members are being returned to combat.
The redeployments are legal, and the service members are often eager to go. But veterans groups, lawmakers and mental-health professionals fear that the practice lacks adequate civilian oversight. They also worry that such redeployments are becoming more frequent as multiple combat tours become the norm and traumatized service members are retained out of loyalty or wartime pressures to maintain troop numbers.
Sen. Barbara Boxer hopes to address the controversy through the Department of Defense Task Force on Mental Health, which is expected to start work next month. The California Democrat wrote the legislation that created the panel. She wants the task force to examine deployment policies and the quality and availability of mental-health care for the military.
“We've also heard reports that doctors are being encouraged not to identify mental-health illness in our troops. I am asking for a lot of answers,” Boxer said during a March 8 telephone interview. “If people are suffering from mental-health problems, they should not be sent on the battlefield.”
Stress reduces a person's chances of functioning well in combat, said Frank M. Ochberg, a psychiatrist for 40 years and a founding member of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies.
“I have not seen anything that says this is a good thing to use these drugs in high-stress situations. But if you are going to be going (into combat) anyway, you are better off on the meds,” said Ochberg, a former consultant to the Secret Service and the National Security Council. “I would hope that those with major depression would not be sent.”
“The (Department of Veterans Affairs) is very worried about the political implications of PTSD and other mental issues arising from the war,” Ilem said. “They are talking about early outreach and treatment, but they are really trying to tamp down the discussion.”
Cmdr. Paul S. Hammer deals with such issues daily.
Hammer, a psychiatrist, is responsible for the Marine Corps' mental-health programs during this deployment rotation. He confirmed that Marines with post-traumatic stress disorder and combat stress are returning to Iraq, though he would not say how many.
Hammer said deciding who is deployed is often anguishing.
Sometimes he has to tell Marine commanders that personnel they had counted on will not be deploying. In other instances, he said, “We'll hold some guy's feet to the fire and say, 'This is what you signed up for, and you have to go.' ”
Marines are “amazingly resilient,” Hammer added. “You've got people exposed to incredible violence, but they do entirely well.”
There is a massive stigma to mental illness in the military. There is massive pressure to rejoin your unit.
So what is happening is that soldiers who should be home are back in combat, under the same level of stress which made them ill in the first place. So what happens when they fail in combat?
So how many civilians, Iraqi and American will pay for this?
posted by Steve @ 12:47:00 AM