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 Horrors of the War on Terror Make US Soldiers Go Insane

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The Sameer
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PostSubject: Horrors of the War on Terror Make US Soldiers Go Insane   Mon Mar 19, 2007 3:36 am

http://www.playfuls.com/news_005393_Horrors_of_the_War_on_Terror_Make_US_Soldiers_Go_Insane.html

A new study published by the Archives of Internal Medicine shows that mental health disorders or psychosocial ills have hit a third of the US soldiers that have returned from Afghanistan or Iraq.

The study from the Archives of Internal Medicine shows that a third of all US soldiers returning from the wars in Afghanistan or Iraq have received treatments from the Veterans Affairs between 2001 and 2005 for mental illnesses or other psychosocial disorders.

Published on March 12, the study showed Veterans of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom (OEF/OIF) have endured high combat stress and are eligible for 2 years of free military service–related health care through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system. The research was conducted by scientists from the University of California, San Francisco and the San Francisco VA Medical Center on 103 788 US veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, which were seen at the Department of Veterans Affairs facilities.

About 13 percent of them women, 54 percent under age 30, nearly a third minorities and nearly half veterans of the National Guard or Reserves.

US veterans separated from OEF/OIF military service and first seen at VA health care facilities between September 30, 2001 (US invasion of Afghanistan), and September 30, 2005, were included. Mental health diagnoses and psychosocial problems were assessed using International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification codes.

Of 103 788 OEF/OIF veterans seen at VA health care facilities, 25 658 (25%) received mental health diagnosis(es); 56% of whom had 2 or more distinct mental health diagnoses. Overall, 32 010 (31%) received mental health and/or psychosocial diagnoses. Mental health diagnoses were detected soon after the first VA clinic visit (median of 13 days), and most initial mental health diagnoses (60%) were made in nonmental health clinics, mostly primary care settings. The youngest group of OEF/OIF veterans (age 18-24 years) were at greatest risk for receiving mental health or posttraumatic stress disorder diagnoses compared with veterans 40 years or older.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was the most common mental health problem, affecting 13,205 vets (52 per cent of the 25,658). That accounts for more than half (52 percent) of mental health diagnoses. The disorder affects less than 4 percent of the general public. It also affects war prisoners and in a smaller proportions, their families.

There are common symptoms associated with PTSD that include: a constant reliving of the experience, dissociation and hyper vigilance. Dissociation is when connections are broken. Hyper vigilance is a feeling of being anxious or on edge all the time. Other symptoms could include difficulty concentrating, insomnia, unable to express one’s self, occupational incapacitation, paranoid reactions and aggression. When these symptoms become chronic that is when it is considered PTSD. Unfortunately many sufferers of PTSD turn to alcohol and drugs to help them cope with the symptoms. “We did see a lot of alcohol and drug abuse in veterans with PTSD following the Vietnam War,” Dr. Elspeth Cameron Ritchie, from the Department of Defense psychiatrist, said in an article published in 2003 in AllPsych Journal.

Others veterans investigated by the team of scientists shows signs of anxiety disorder (24 percent), adjustment disorder (24 percent), depression (20 percent) and substance abuse disorder (20 percent).

Post-traumatic stress disorder affected 13 percent of all veterans of Iraq or Afghanistan who received care from the VA services.

That's just a little below the average of 15.2 percent discovered in veterans of the Vietnam War, but far above the 3.5 percent reported in the general population.

Differences between genders and races were "minimal," the study said.

"Our results signal a need for improvements in the primary prevention of military service-related mental health disorders, particularly among our youngest service members," the authors warned.

"It does look like there is indeed an upward trend, and it's scary," said Dr. Karen Seal, a physician at the San Francisco Veterans Administration Medical Center and lead author of the new research. "You have a young population possibly not getting treatment for these conditions, and going on to have chronic mental illness," Seal said. "It's potentially a big public health problem."

More than a generation after 19 percent of Vietnam vets returned with PTSD, the illness generally carries less of a stigma and has better-defined standards of treatment. But many veterans and researchers say the shame of mental illness persists in military ranks, and soldiers often avoid reporting their symptoms in hopes of preserving their careers. Getting PTSD victims to acknowledge their condition is a constant challenge, Seal said — in part because the military is "a very macho culture, not one that supports being weak or crying at the pop of a balloon."

Concerning the young men and women sent to the front, the authors warned that "because they are young, they are more likely to be of lower rank and more likely to have greater combat exposure than their older active-duty counterparts."

"The mental-health toll of this war is tremendous and growing," said Rieckhoff, a former Army lieutenant who served in Iraq, in a phone interview with Bloomberg on Monday. "Untreated mental-health issues can lead to a predictable downward spiral: alcoholism,
marital problems, drug abuse, unemployment, homelessness. It is a slippery slope."

Matt Burns, a VA spokes-man, responded in an e-mail interview that "We have taken—and will continue to take—steps to make certain our veterans receive comprehensive, accessible and compassionate care for their mental-health concerns."

The VA has almost $3 billion in annual spending devoted to mental-health services, according to the statement, and the agency employs more than 9,000 psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers.

But the mental illnesses that hit US soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan are likely to pose problems not only to those who have to deal with them and to the state, but also to soldiers’ families.

The authors of the study conclude that the substantial proportion of ill OEF/OIF veterans seen at VA facilities requires targeted early detection and intervention in order to prevent chronic mental illness and disability.
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