Mental Wounds Plague Veterans
by Alan Johnson
The Columbus Dispatch, June 28, 2012
America’s wars are winding down, but America’s warriors are coming home with hidden wounds: post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic depression and other serious mental-health problems.
As a result, alcohol and drug problems, family violence and suicide are plaguing veterans and their loved ones, according to a National Alliance on Mental Illness report released today. A veteran commits suicide every 80 minutes in the U.S., while someone on active duty takes his or her life every 36 hours, the NAMI report says.
The national report, “Parity for Patriots,” provides detailed statistics on growing mental illness affecting many of the 2.2 million active-duty personnel in the U.S. and millions more veterans and families members.
- One in five active duty military personnel have experienced symptoms of PTSD, depression or other mental health conditions
- One active duty soldier dies by suicide every 36 hours and one veteran every 80 minutes
- Suicides have increased within National Guard and Reserve forces, even among those who have never been activated and are not eligible for care through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)
- More than one third of military spouses live with at least one mental disorder
- One third of children with at least one deployed parent have had psychological problems such as depression, anxiety and acute stress reaction — NAMI 2012 Report: Parity for Patriots – The Mental Health Needs of Military Personnel, Veterans and their Families
Quoting a 911 call-center counselor, the report says, “He just said he thinks he should walk out into traffic on Interstate 5 and end it all. That life is not worth living.”
NAMI concluded that the Veterans Affairs medical system is “hard to penetrate” for those seeking mental-health treatment. Half wait 50 days for their initial assessment. The agency has a backlog of nearly 900,000 cases awaiting disability benefits.
At the same time, barriers remain to parity between physical and mental-heath care — despite a 2008 law aimed at fixing the problem.
Attitudes also play a big role, NAMI reported. Active military personnel and many veterans are reluctant to seek treatment for fear of the stigma.
Mental-health problems are prevalent in family members, too: Thirty-seven percent of spouses were diagnosed with various disorders, and one-third of the 776,000 children of active military personnel have acute stress reaction, depression, anxiety or behavior disorders, the report said.
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Filed under: Resources Tagged: | Afghanistan, Iraq, Mental Health, Military Family, Military Suicide, NAMI, Parity for Patriot - The Mental Health Needs of Military Personnel, PTSD, Report, Stigma, The National Alliance on Mental Illness, Veterans Affairs, Veterans and their Families, War