Returning troops and mental health

This past Friday’s (29 July 05) Daily Illini contained an AP article titled "Troops return from Iraq; mental health problems."

It reports on the results of a recent study looking at mental health issues experienced by troops returning from war zones.  It seems they had only been looking at those who had serious mental health issues immediately upon return (3-5%).  This new study looks at issues faced 3-6 months after leaving the combat zones.  It turns out that "thirty percent of U.S. troops returning from the Iraq war have developed stress-related mental health problems three to four months after coming home," according to U.S. Army Surgreon General Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley.

Here’s a link to a similar article in Yahoo News.  (Found the same article in other places.)
A study from a year ago.
Female vets and stress-related health issues.
Australian viewpoint on American morale and mental health.
Military Families in the Millennium. (pdf – source for military family stats)

None of this should really be a surprise to anyone

I would like to take issue though with one comment in the article.  Before I do though, let me state that I did try to do further research but could find nothing besides the Yahoo News piece.  I realize that the structure of the paragragh that I find so disturbing is probably a typically bad newspaper construction and may not, in fact, reflect the statement of military representatives.  Either way, the military or poor journalism, it is distressing to me.  It also seems the article in the Daily Illini is somewhat different than the other versions I found.  That suggests several possibilities, none of which I can resolve.

    Military medical officials, however, cautioned against people reading their data as suggesting the war had driven so many people over the edge.  Instead, they characterized the anxiety and stress as normal reactions to combat, seeing dead and mutilated bodies, and feeling helpless to stop a violent situation.
    Still, such reactions can lead to problems with spouses and children, substance abuse and just day-to-day life, they said.

Ok,  I do not know who these "military medical officials" are, nor what "they" actually said.  So maybe they aren’t guilty of exactly this specific waffling evasion, but I’ll bet it was close.

First, it is not the slightest bit helpful to talk about being "driven over the edge."  That is a purely colloquial term of psychology.  Second, I would certainly characterize "the anxiety and stress as normal reactions to combat, seeing dead and
mutilated bodies, and feeling helpless to stop a violent situation."  Just what the hell is ‘normal’ in this case?  Again, not very helpful and, in fact, it is downright disingenuous.

So, it may be ‘normal’ for so many of our troops to be having these sorts of stress-related reactions to the horrors of war.  But then it has to be borne by the families of these vets, too.  Death and mutilation of our service members along with the destruction of families and careers.  Cause I sure hope you know that combat-related stress-induced substance abuse will ruin a career just as fast as freely chosen substance abuse.  It will not be an excuse.  In fact, the military, embarassed by the effects of what they have wrought, will punish it even faster to excise it from the ranks like some kind of festering cancer.  Like so many other things, it will be kept quiet as individual lives and families are destroyed while the military tries to display a face that everyone knows is a mask.

I sure hope that Americans are feeling a whole lot safer now than they were on 9/11 and the start of this folly!  I just wish it was the chickenhawk’s and neocon’s families who were the ones suffering along with their service members.  But based on the actual structure of the all volunteer force that is not generally the case.  Chickenhawks don’t serve, by definition.  Many of the pro-empire forces are the rich and are benefiting from the supposedly great economy.  Service members are neither rich nor generally benefiting from the economy. 

Military family data for your edification and thoughts:

52% of enlisted and 71% of officers are married.
11% of all married personnel are in joint-service marriages (both spouses in military).
46% of service members have children.
6% are single parent families.
under 25 years – average age of military member when they have their 1st child (I was barely 21).
39% of children in military families are under 6 years old.
73% are 11 years old are under.
Family members outnumber service members 60% to 40%.

We ask too much of our service members and their families in return for far too little.  We destroy lives and then punish them for the destruction wrought upon them by our government and society.

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