Friday, July 13, 2007

Another Six Month Plan

The macho military culture is finally ready to admit that war causes pyschological injuries. Now, the military wants six months to figure out what to do about that, according to an article in yesterday's Sacramento Bee.

The Pentagon's top health official said Thursday he wants to see better mental health assessments, stronger privacy protections and a "buddy system" to change the military's stigma against seeking help for anxiety and depression.

Speaking to Congress as the military rushes to improve its much-criticized mental health system, S. Ward Casscells, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, also acknowledged that the Army's touted plans to hire 25 percent additional mental health specialists may prove hard to fulfill for awhile because of problems in recruiting and retaining active-duty professionals.

"It's not easy to get people into the military," said Casscells, referring to plans by Army Surgeon Gen. Gail Pollock. "We cannot hire 200 Army psychiatrists, which Gen. Pollock wants to do, we can't do that overnight. So we need everyone to reach out and look out for service members."

Why the sudden interest in improving the military's mental health system? Well, the number of military personnel suffering from mental health problems is simply too large to ignore any longer, for one thing:

Casscells' comments came as the Pentagon and Congress are reviewing 95 recommendations made last month by a task force chaired by Navy Surgeon General Donald Arthur. Issuing an urgent warning, the panel found that more than one-third of troops and veterans currently suffer from problems such as traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder and urged stronger leadership, more money and a fundamental shift in treatment to focus on prevention and screening. ...

About 38 percent of soldiers and 31 percent of Marines report psychological conditions such as brain injury and PTSD after returning from deployment. Among members of the National Guard, the figure is much higher - 49 percent - with numbers expected to grow because of repeated and extended deployments.

And the response to those numbers has been predictable: the Secretary of Defense has ordered that a plan be developed and has given the military six months to develop such a plan, which makes the plan due in September.

Six months to put together a plan in a war that has been going on for over four years.


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Blogger shrimplate said...

During the Vietnam era many soldiers themselves developed ways of dealing with the psychological torment of war. Such as "fragging."

9:23 AM  

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