Originally published April 9 2008
America's Soldiers Need Support on the War Front
by Jo Hartley
(NaturalNews) Our American soldiers on the war front are finding it increasingly difficult to get the mental health care they need. As violence rose in Afghanistan, new tactics have been employed, which in turn pushed our troops there farther away from operating bases and farther away from help.
A report released March 6 recommended the use of civilian psychiatrists on the war front to supplement the uniformed mental health corps. Although this is an unusual recommendation, there are other civilian contract employees working alongside our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their jobs range from security to food service.
In a recent survey, officials found that more than ¼ of soldiers on repeat duty tours were found to exhibiting symptoms of anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems. The survey also found that more soldiers were reporting marital difficulties and the suicide rate among troops has increased.
This report was created by a team of mental health professionals who visited the war zones last fall. The team interviewed over 2,200 soldiers stationed in Iraq and almost 900 soldiers stationed in Afghanistan. The team also included information from over 400 medical professionals, chaplains, psychiatrists, psychologists, and other workers stationed at the war front in their study.
Other important data:
1. Over 27% of soldiers on their 3rd or 4th tours were suffering anxiety, depression, post-combat stress, or other difficulties. Compare this percentage with 12% for first tour soldiers.
2. Suicide rates are elevated for troops stationed in both Iraq and Afghanistan. There have been four in Afghanistan and possibly 34 (includes confirmed and suspected) in Iraq. If this number is confirmed, this will be the highest rate since the war began.
3. Soldiers in Afghanistan are reporting more depression than soldiers in Iraq. The adjusted rate for depression in 2007 in Afghanistan was 11.4 % and in Iraq it was 7.6% .
4. As fighting against Taliban and al-Qaida combatants has increased, 83% of troops have now had exposure to traumatic combat events. This is a key factor in the risk for mental health among the soldiers.
5. Approximately 29% of soldiers in Iraq reported difficulty receiving mental health help. This number was for troops moved away from bases and into combat outposts. Among troops stationed at bases, 13% reported difficulty getting mental health help.
6. In Iraq, 72% of the troops reported knowing someone either seriously injured or killed.
7. Troops in Iraq reported an average of 5 ½ hours of sleep per day. This is significantly less sleep than is optimal to maintain best performance. Officers appeared to underestimate this importance, however.
8. Almost one-third of soldiers in Afghanistan were concerned with the amount of sleep they were getting per day. One-quarter of the troops reportedly fell asleep during convoys in 2007.
The study recommended a longer home time between deployments, as well as focused suicide-prevention training and increased insurance coverage for marital and family counseling.
About the authorJo Hartley
Wife, Mother of 8, and Grandmother of 2
Jo is a 41 year old home educator who has always gravitated toward a natural approach to life. She enjoys learning as much as possible about just about anything!
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