Saturday, June 16, 2007

Losing the peace -- of mind

By Libby

In a perverse way, the over 3,500 soldiers who have died in the occupation of the Iraq are the lucky ones. They at least are at peace and don't have to live with the traumatic memories of surviving their tours of duty. No matter how strong a person is, no one can witness horrible carnage and deliberately kill other human beings and remain unaffected. This is especially apparent in our returning Iraq occupation veterans.
According to the Pentagon's latest mental health survey, 31 percent of Marines, 38 percent of soldiers and 49 percent of the National Guard reported psychological symptoms such as anger, depression or alcohol abuse after returning home. As the director of the survey said, combat stress is not something you just get over.
Considering the macho mentality in the armed services and that the symptoms are self-reported, one can only surmise that these estimates are lowball figures.

This is a collateral cost that is rarely figured into the wonkish analysis on when we should end the Iraq occupation. Even the "good wars" left many veterans with permanent psychological damage. They used to call it “shell shock,” and then “combat fatigue.” Now we call it PTSD, but the malady is the same, if not worse, and it endangers us more than some nebulous terrorists plots.

These soldiers are trained to kill. Death is made palatable to the conscience by depersonalizing the enemy. They are taught it's good to kill "gooks" and "krauts" and now ragheads -- lessons that are reinforced by months and years of blowing their fellow man into tiny bits of bloody flesh. What they don't teach them is how to live with the memories once they get home. They don't reprogram them to live in peace, forcing the war vets to battle their internal demons on their own. And since it's viewed as some kind of admission of weakness, mental health is a low priority in the military -- especially in this administration.
The Army now has about 500 health professionals and plans to hire another 100. But there are about 1 million men and women who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan.

That's a helluva case load and leaves a whole lot of ticking time bombs walking among us. You often read about a returned Iraq vet who lost control and killed either themselves or their family during an PTSD episode. Every day that we remain in the occupation adds to their ranks.

(Thanks to Think Progress for the link.)


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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Intelligence is not a “product” provided by higher headquarters, but something we gather ourselves through our own operations

Weak mental health.

1:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks again for furthering the stigma: " a whole lot of ticking time bombs walking among us. You often read about a returned Iraq vet who lost control and killed either themselves or their family during an PTSD episode."

Your attitude is as bad as the White House which has now insisted that the VA Police now patrol the hospital halls with loaded sidearms. Somehow that does not make me feel safer. Only in America - guns in hospitals!! Now how is that going to help someone with PTSD who needs to feel he is in a place of safety?

Just Another PTSD Vet

4:24:00 AM  
Blogger Libby Spencer said...

Anon - you're reading the post all wrong. I'm on your side. I think it's criminal the VA is not providing better access to mental health services.

But the fact remains that untreated PTSD patients ARE commiting acts of violence because they're not receiving the proper care. My point is the gov't needs to provide more funding for treatment. I'm certainly not suggesting that the PTSD vets be treated like criminals and I'm horrified to hear about armed guards in the hospitals. I can't think of anything that would make it worse for a PTSD vet.

Can you point to some resource that I get more information on this new policy?

7:36:00 AM  
Blogger LeftLeaningLady said...

I think this is a great post. It saddens me that in 2007 the stigma is still in our every day lives and it is worse for the military. These poor combat weary vets are told they can have an appointment in weeks or months or are offered garden variety drugs, but not the help they need. We have an entire generation of men who have self-medicated for 40 years and where has that gotten us? Sadly I see another generation of homeless vets who got screwed by this government.

11:49:00 AM  
Blogger Libby Spencer said...

LLL - I'm afraid I see the same.

12:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There should be a desert island where we could put these people.

6:53:00 PM  
Blogger Libby Spencer said...

Anon I hope you mean the administration and not the vets.

7:14:00 PM  

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