Tuesday, December 23

PTSD: Iraq Veterans Deserve Better

Veterans from the Iraq war and Afghanistan are coming back to a country that is not well-prepared to deal with their many psychological needs and a military that wants them to do more. In this season of giving, we need to remember these brave men and women.

Here is a sad example from the AP story of Sgt. 1st Class Patrick Henderson who returned from Iraq and was turned into a military recruiter. His wife found him in a shed behind their house hanging from a dog chain due to the pressure he was under to recruit and the nightmares he carried with him from fighting in Iraq. He was treated by a local counselor who did not have a handle on the military jargon on his medical record and was ineffective in treating him.

The RAND Corporation estimates that 20 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans report symptoms of PTSD or major depression. Only half have sought treatment. With deployment topping 1.5 million by the summer of 2007, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has treated more than 52,000 persons,

The symptoms are PTSD are broken into three broad groups:
- Reexperiencing: This involves intrusive memories and flashbacks.
- Avoidance: Symptoms include isolation, withdrawal, emotional numbing, detachment, memory loss.
- Hyperarousal: Patients experience insomnia, irritability, outbursts and poor concentration.

According to Medscape, "estimates are for a minimum of 300,000 psychiatric casualties from service with an estimated lifetime cost of treatment of $660 billion. That is more than the actual cost of the war to date ($500 billion).

A study of the first 100,000 [Iraq and Afghanistan] veterans seen at VA facilities showed that 25% of them received mental health diagnoses. Of these, 56% had 2 or more mental health diagnoses. The most common were PTSD, substance abuse, and depression," Dr. Kanter said. "The younger the veterans are, the more likely they are to have mental health conditions."

Evaluation immediately on return from deployment suggested that 5% of active duty and 6% of reserve personnel had a significant mental health problem. When reassessed 3 to 6 months later, 27% of active duty and 42% of reserve personnel received that evaluation."

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