Politics

Post-War Suicides Could Exceed Combat Deaths

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Some sobering news about how many of our young men and women are dying from wounds they suffered on the battlefield that nobody could see until it’s too late.

From Bloomberg:

The number of suicides among veterans of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may exceed the combat death toll because of inadequate mental health care, the U.S. government’s top psychiatric researcher said.

Community mental health centers, hobbled by financial limits, haven’t provided enough scientifically sound care, especially in rural areas, said Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland. He briefed reporters today at the American Psychiatric Association’s annual meeting in Washington.

Insel echoed a Rand Corporation study published last month that found about 20 percent of returning U.S. soldiers have post- traumatic stress disorder or depression, and only half of them receive treatment. About 1.6 million U.S. troops have fought in the two wars since October 2001, the report said. About 4,560 soldiers had died in the conflicts as of today, the Defense Department reported on its Web site.

Based on those figures and established suicide rates for similar patients who commonly develop substance abuse and other complications of post-traumatic stress disorder, “it’s quite possible that the suicides and psychiatric mortality of this war could trump the combat deaths,” Insel said.

But let’s not forget that those who commit suicide aren’t the majority. Many suffer in silence and the numbers prove that out…

The psychiatric association reported last week that a survey of 191 military members and their spouses found 32 percent said their duty hurt their mental health, and six in 10 believed seeking treatment would damage their careers.

It’s pretty sad when you think that 60% think treating a mental wound would jeopardize their livelihood. It obvious we’ve got a long way to go yet when it comes to mental health in the military.