War Post Traumatic Stress

Mental Stress of Troops in Iraq No Bar to Duty, US Says

The Pentagon could extend combat tours in Iraq despite an official report showing that hundreds of thousands of US troops who have been involved in at least one war zone in Iraq or Afghanistan are experiencing serious psychological problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder.

According to the Pentagon’s own mental health taskforce, US troops have been undertaking higher levels of sustained combat duty than that experienced by soldiers during the war in Vietnam and in the second world war.

post traumatic stress articles It found that 38% of soldiers, 31% of marines, 49% of national guard members and 43% of marine reservists showed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder or other psychological problems within three months of returning from active duty. Its report also noted inadequate mental healthcare and facilities, and prejudice over mental health problems.

The US has about 155,000 troops in Iraq, most of whom typically spend 15 months in combat zones with a guaranteed 12 months at home. But that is a breach of the Pentagon’s own rules saying equal time should be spent on and off duty.

This week, Peter Geren, acting army secretary, told Congress that extended stints of frontline duty could be ordered if President Bush opted to push the 30,000-strong troop surge in Iraq beyond September. The senate armed services committee heard that while no decisions had been made, plans had to be started.

Yesterday, Vice-Admiral Donald Arthur, co-chairman of the Pentagon’s mental health taskforce, said there was "no doubt" that more numerous and lengthier deployments were exacerbating mental health problems. "Not since Vietnam have we seen this level of combat," he said.

pictures of post traumatic stressThe taskforce’s report said symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury – the two "signature injuries" associated with service in Iraq and Afghanistan – included anger and substance abuse. And soldiers’ reticence meant the problem was probably greater than research indicated. The report also questioned the practice of returning troops to frontline duty while they were taking medication such as lithium or Prozac.

A cut in combat duties to lessen psychological stress was also urged by an army study based on research in Iraq last year. But that proposal was rejected this week by a senior aide to the ground forces commander in Iraq. Brigadier-General Joseph Anderson told USA Today: "We would never get the job done."

© Guardian News & Media 2008
Published: 6/20/2007

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