Friday, October 13, 2006

Wars May End But Mental Disorders March On

Having a mental illness, especially one caused by war, is no longer the shame it was when General Patton slapped a shell-shocked soldier. Awareness and reporting of syndromes like post-traumatic stress disorder are also much higher than in the past. Even so, a secret government study about the degree to which the "global war on terror" has affected the personalities of recent veterans is, well, mind-blowing.

The AP reports that according to the government's own statistics, more than one-third of veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq who seek medical treatment from the Veterans Health Administration have symptoms of stress or other mental disorders and are reporting it at 10 times the rate of just 18 months earlier.

Previous studies have shown that 15 percent of returning male Vietnam veterans had been diagnosed with PTSD, falling to 3 percent in the tame Gulf War of 1991, and rising to 18 percent for Afghanistan war veterans and now 20 percent for Iraq war veterans. Studies also show that as time marches on, so do the mental effects. They also show a much higher percentage of anti-social and criminal behavior among combat veterans than others.

There is a sad and unnecessary personal cost here, but an even greater one for America, so many of whose future leaders are mentally debilitated -- even worse than the ones they will be replacing who never saw combat.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous9:25 PM

    I agree with all you've said here. However, having been married to a Vietnam war vet, I'm surprised the percentage is so low. I hope the vets returning from this war are able to find the help they deserve, and subsequently, some peace.