The alarming number of suicides earlier this year among U.S. troops serving in Iraq has raised a red flag about the mental strain on our service men and women as they face grueling battles and a conflict with no clear end in sight. These suicides are only the most visible manifestation of the rising mental health toll from the Iraq war and other U.S. combat operations abroad. Studies indicate that troops who served in Iraq are suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and other problems brought on by their experiences on a scale not seen since Vietnam.
These figures have mental health professionals and veterans groups worried, and with good reason. At a time when our troops are working hard to answer the nation’s call, their own needs remain unmet. Barriers to mental health care persist both in the field and at home, leaving mental health problems to fester.
The personal burden on troops affected by mental trauma and on their families is enormous, and these mental health problems have consequences for communities and the nation as well. The full extent of this hidden cost of war will not be apparent for some years to come, but experts believe it may involve tens of thousands of service members. Preparing for the challenge at hand and extending the appropriate care and respect to our troops must be a top priority.
Features from our event, The Hidden Toll of Iraq: Mental Heath and the Military
September 14, 2004
• Audio: Mental Health and the Military
• Video: Larry Korb | Dr. Sue Bailey | Kaye Baron | Stephen L. Robinson | Q&A
• Press Release