At Ft. Hood and Elsewhere, Army Faces Unprecedented Mental Health Needs

Last November, an Army psychiatrist engaged in a public shooting at Ft. Hood, the U.S. Army’s largest base in the country. Paired with increasing rates of soldiers with PTSD—sometimes treated, and sometimes fighting for recognition of their struggles—the shooting put mental health and the military in the national spotlight. With overseas combat engagement now in its 9th year, mental health needs present at Ft. Hood are higher than ever before, often straining the base’s robust mental health staff. And it’s believed that even more troops may need help than are asking for it. Ft. Hood, located in Texas, houses approximately 10% of Army personnel. If the psychological and emotional state of troops there are an indication of mental health needs across the rest of the military, Major General William Grimsley told USA Today, then both the Army and the nation will continue to experience unprecedented strain on available services.

At Ft. Hood, 50 mental health workers were employed in 2004; today, there are 171 with almost 30 more on the way. Soldiers diagnosed with PTSD in 2004 numbered 310; last year there were 2,445. Currently, 4,000 patients meet with Ft. Hood counselors each month, and more than 550 are sent off-base to army-contracted private clinics, simply because Ft. Hood’s staff is booked solid and cannot keep up with the demand for mental health needs. Troops’ families are also under greater strain than ever before: requests for marriage counseling sessions and child/adolescent psychological counseling are both at record highs. Every time the Army hires more counselors, their schedules are instantly filled up, and local clinics are working extended hours to keep up with the need.

Even though Ft. Hood continues to add mental health personnel, as many as 1 in 4 soldiers reports reluctance to ask for emotional and psychological assistance. Mental health stigma, present across society, is especially strong in the military, soldiers say, where being brave and strong is prized. However, as long as mental health services aren’t received—whether by limited availability or because of perceived shame—the well-being of both soldiers and their families continues to be at stake. Army suicide rates for 2010 are already outpacing those from 2009; in June 2010 alone, there were 32: the highest monthly number since the Army began keeping track.

© Copyright 2010 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Allen

    Allen

    August 26th, 2010 at 10:17 AM

    The major reason why most people do not seek help is because of the stigma…they need to break this jinx if they want more people to come out and actually admit that they need help.

  • George

    George

    August 26th, 2010 at 6:01 PM

    Um yeah- kind of scary to think that you were all enlisted together to help fight the bad guys and actually one of the bad guys was living among you waiting to do harm. Frightening no matter who you are or where you live.

  • NATASHA

    NATASHA

    August 26th, 2010 at 7:04 PM

    Not only is quick building up of therapy experts and other specialists needed at army cases but what is also needed is to find out why exactly so many of our army personnel are falling prey to mental health issues and why so many of them are in need of treatment, because there seems to be an overwhelming percentage of our personnel requiring help!

  • Rodney

    Rodney

    August 27th, 2010 at 4:34 AM

    What soldiers go through on a daily basis is enough alone to make them need therapy. They are being trained to kill and that has to have some kind of screwed up effect on a man’s mind. But then to not only have to go through that but to live with the fact that something like this could happen to them on home soil? That’s enough to mess anybody up. And if the army is stigmatizing these men and women for seeking help that ain’t right. They need help getting over something like this, any of us would. So while it is fine that they are getting the therapists in there they also need to stress that it is ok to use these services and that they will not be looed at any differently because of the services that they seek out.

  • Natalie

    Natalie

    August 27th, 2010 at 10:57 AM

    @Natasha:I agree with you. We need to look at the percentages of personnel of other armies’ requiring mental health care and also make a comparison of the job satisfaction. This will be much clearer than just saying a lot of our army men need mental health care because they are suffering.

  • jane

    jane

    August 28th, 2010 at 9:42 AM

    Hate to inform the army but the mental health care needs have always been there, you guys have just been unwilling to see that and do anything about it.

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