The topic of mental health among returning veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars has been hotly contested of late, especially in the wake of reports of growing suicide and post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD rates in military personnel. Adding weight to the argument for more extensive, accessible, and meaningful mental health measures, the recent attack at the Ft. Hood army base has re-sparked discussions about a lack of thorough screening and understanding within the military community. After attending the memorial service for victims of the Ft. Hood shootings on Tuesday,the head of the Department of Veterans Affairs, four-star general Eric Shinseki, appeared on “The Early Show” Wednesday to talk about the incident and the Department’s plans for mental health going forward.
Though mental health advocates and medical professionals, as well as caregivers and family members of returning veterans may have been anticipating a clear description of plans for future improvements, Shinseki’s statements were relatively general. The VA Director noted that over nineteen thousand mental health professionals were employed in the service of the Department, and that work was being “diligently” carried out in order to provide an increased level of care to service members in need. Expressing grave concern and regret over the Ft. Hood incident, Shinseki was reported to convey deep concern over the role of mental health in overall personnel well-being, but beyond the implementation of a post-September 11th G.I. bill, there was little to indicate any specific plans for the future.
In the coming weeks and months, the inadequacy of military mental health services for both active-duty personnel and veterans alike may help the VA and other offices find greater motivation for taking definite, effective measures to better serve their staff.
© Copyright 2009 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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