Fixing the Military’s Broken Mental Heath Care System, Culture, is First Step to Ending Suicide Epidemic

The broken mental health care system within DoD and the VA has contributed to many thousands of deaths by suicide among those who have served during America’s “Global War on Terrorism.” Since war began after 9-11, at least 2.5 million men and women have worn the uniform. Most who subsequently decided to end their own life by suicide did so after witnessing or directly participating in the horrors of war. The Fayetteville Observer’s series of in-depth reports titled “The Last Battle” has focused a new bright light on suicides, psychiatric injuries, maltreatment of wounded soldiers at Fort Bragg and the larger issues contributing to the 18 daily suicides by those serving on active duty and veterans. The below post reports a summary of suggested solutions to ending the needless loss of life from military suicide. (The Oregonian)

THE LAST BATTLE: Efforts to Provide Mental Health Care for War Veterans Falling Short

by Greg Barnes and John Ramsey
The Fayetteville Observer, Sept. 26, 2012

The last battle of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is being fought at home.

And in 2012, the military and the VA have done more than ever to respond to the anguish of men and women who are haunted by war.

This year, the military and the Department of Veterans Affairs rolled out promising new programs and research to identify and treat post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and other lingering effects of combat that afflict as many as one in five service members.

Myriad studies are under way. Budgets for mental health treatment programs are doubling. Thousands of new counselors have been hired.
But there is little evidence that the tide has turned in the battle. Too many service members suffering from mental health problems still are not being identified until they get into trouble.

Suicides are climbing. Commanders struggle with the twin demands of monitoring the mental health of their soldiers while maintaining focus on their core mission of training for war.

Based on extensive interviews with troubled soldiers, military and VA leaders, and mental health advocates – along with evidence from statistical data and civilian and military studies – it is clear that there are things that must be done better if the country is going to win this fight against the “hidden wounds” of war.


The military must do a better job of identifying men and women who are suffering from mental health problems early, before PTSD blossoms into domestic violence, substance abuse or suicide.

The military must make more mental health counselors available – in the field and at home.

The military and VA have to eliminate their communication problems and aggressively address the bureaucratic hurdles that slow the processing of veterans claims.

The country cannot depend on the military and VA to carry the whole burden of addressing the mental health problems of those who went to war. States, local communities, even volunteers must step up.

If the country doesn’t do a better job of helping service members and veterans damaged by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the price will likely be exacted over decades.

— Greg Barnes and John Ramsey, Fayetteville Observer, Sept. 26, 2012

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2 Responses

  1. Over 4 million American men, women and children disabled due to treatment of mental illness, and now this disaster with our men and woman in our armed forces, and our government is pushing for more screenings and more treatment with these drugs? It is like watching insanity in motion. Spending more money to continue the status qua will not work. We need to investigate and change what is broken with the system!

  2. The MH System is not only broken but dangerous for our injured warriors and families. All they know is to label our soldiers with a Disorder and drug them so they can’t function…just more stress, anxiety and depression with little hope of recovery. We can do better as an integrative and holistic health community. All of my injured warriors improve when they join nature and work all of their systems–physically, mentally, emotionally, socially and spiritually. We provide intensive and extensive health practices…most of our sessions are 5-7 hrs several times a week.

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