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Archive for March, 2006

US SOLDIERS SEEKING MORE MENTAL HEALTH TREATMENT

Today’s Journal of the American Medical Association has a report on a new study of mental health services used by recent military veterans in the USA. About a third of them seek help in the first year of their return. Most of them did not receive PTSD or similar diagnoses when assessed prior to treatment.

A NY Times summary of the report states that since 1995, use of VA mental health services has increased 60%. This is largely due to increased numbers of Vietnam veterans seeking PTSD treatment. It doesn’t state what many of us are aware of – that virtually no one treated PTSD until well after 1995. Surely part of the increase may be accounted to that fact.

TREATMENT NEED UNDERESTIMATED

VA clinics have, so far, treated 50,000 Iraqi veterans. Estimates of how many more may be treated vary significantly.

This is a greater number seeking help than the military planned for – in fact, most of those seeking help after their return to the states had not been seen by military screeners as having mental health problems at all! Part of the problem appears to be that coming up positive on the military screening means delays in release or return, and the soldiers know this.

There are additional factors at work, I suspect. Minimization of PTSD and similar responses to stress in the military has long been reported. Civilian police and firemen appear to do the same thing, so this isn’t surprising. Real men don’t suffer emotional hurt – that appears to be the belief. But they, do, of course.

GETTING IT RIGHT IS JUST TOO EXPENSIVE – APPARENTLY

Our military is financially strained right now. Iraq has been expensive on all fronts. The last thing the military needs is a mushrooming PTSD problem. So, underestimating the problem works to minimize costs at the front end. Why make it easy for the soldiers to get treatment? It’s not like handing out aspirin, after all. Deny and delay, and probably some of them just won’t come in for help.

A local PTSD treatment contractor with the VA here in Washington state (USA) tells me that financial constraints on treatment are so severe that most vets with PTSD are allowed 30 minutes of individual treatment a month. The rest of the time they have group therapy (which is NOT a validated treatment for PTSD). I rest my case.

Support our troops – until they become invisible to us. It’s the American way. It shouldn’t be.

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