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Soldiers Not Getting Needed Mental Health Help

Soldiers Not Getting Needed Mental Health Help

Posted - Jul. 1, 2004 at 3:35 p.m.



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Dr. Kim Mulvihill ReportingA large number of combat soldiers in Iraq are already suffering from mental health problems. New evidence suggests that most of them are not getting help.

This is an Army study and it's unprecedented. Most research is done after a war. These results are available while our troops are still deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The war in Iraq - the sounds, the smells, being shot at, killing others, handling dead bodies, or seriously injured comrades.

Johnny Baskerville, Peer Counselor: “War is an unnatural thing to take a 19-year old or 20-year old person and have someone shooting at them; that's gotta affect you.”

Johnny Baskerville is a peer counselor at Swords to Ploughshares, a nonprofit war veterans group. We showed him the new report. His reaction? This is no Desert Storm with high tech hits.

Johnny Baskerville: “This is the real deal over there. This is fighting an enemy. This is very similar to Vietnam, and we're not quite sure who the bad guy is.”

The new study reveals a significant risk of mental health problems among the troops in Iraq. The findings found one in eight soldiers or marines returning from service reported symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. However, they were also the least likely to seek treatment for fear it could harm their careers or they would appear weak.

Johnny Baskerville: “I think you have to have that standup macho, ‘I can take anything. I'm a leader.’”

Only a small percent report they received any help. The suicide rate among soldiers in Iraq is higher than that of the army at large. A recent military investigation found at least twenty-four soldiers killed themselves on duty. That does not include any soldiers or marines who killed themselves upon returning home.

One big problem is lack of access. A recent army investigation in Iraq found uneven access to anti-depressants, a lack of trained mental healthcare personnel on the ground, and barriers to receiving care.

This study comes at a time when mental health services at the V.A. have been cut by nine percent.

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