A new report suggests nearly half of Afghanistan and Iraq veterans have symptoms of mental health issues. The data, which was collected from the Department of Veterans Affairs hospitals, reveals that over 17,000 veterans were diagnosed with mental health issues in the last quarter of 2010 alone, up nearly 100 percent since 2004, when the veterans’ advocacy group, Veterans for Common Sense, first began studying this trend.
Recent reports have shown that deployed military personnel are citing more emotional stress than at any time in the last four to five years. The military has doubled the amount of medical personnel available in warzones to assist and treat those who are experiencing psychological trauma. However, this does not impact those who are sent home. Paul Sullivan, executive director for Veterans for Common Sense, said, “We truly support having more doctors in warzones, that’s great. But we also need to make sure we have enough doctors here.”
A representative for the Veterans Affairs Administration, Laurie Tranter, did report that they have steadily increased the staff of mental health professionals at home by nearly double since 2002. She believes that the number of veterans who are being diagnosed with mental health issues may be increasing due to the advances in diagnoses and availability of health services.
Regardless of the increase, the government has recognized this shortfall and has issued its own condemnation. The recent opinion of a federal appeals court stated that the VA’s mental health system should receive drastic reform based on information that veterans wait as long as four years to receive treatment and benefits. One of the judges, Judge Stephen Reinhart, said, “Although the VA is obligated to provide veterans mental health services, many veterans with severe depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”) are forced to wait weeks for mental health referrals… For those who commit suicide in the interim, care does not come soon enough.”
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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