Newsweek: Soldiers Turning To Self-Harm To Avoid Going Back To Iraq

Newsweek: As an internist at New York's Mount Sinai Hospital, Dr. Stephanie Santos is used to finding odd things in people's stomachs. So last sprin

Newsweek:

As an internist at New York's Mount Sinai Hospital, Dr. Stephanie Santos is used to finding odd things in people's stomachs. So last spring when a young man, identifying himself as an Iraq-bound soldier, said he had accidentally swallowed a pen at the bus station, she believed him. That is, until she found a second pen. It read 1-800-GREYHOUND. Last summer, according to published reports, a 20-year-old Bronx soldier paid a hit man $500 to shoot him in the knee on the day he was scheduled to return to Iraq. The year before that, a 24-year-old specialist from Washington state escaped a second tour of duty, according to his sister, by strapping on a backpack full of tools and leaping off the roof of his house, injuring his spine.

Soldiers have long used self-harm as a rip cord to avoid war. During World War I, The American Journal of Psychiatry reported "epidemics of self-inflicted injuries," hospital wards filled with men shot in a single finger or toe, as well as cases of pulled-out teeth, punctured eardrums and slashed Achilles' heels. Few doubt that the Korean and Vietnam wars were any different. But the current war—fought with an overtaxed volunteer Army—may be the worst. "We're definitely concerned," says Ritchie. "We hope they'll talk to us rather than self-harm." Read on...

With military suicide rates at nearly 30 year highs and almost 20% of our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan on anti-depressants, this story doesn't come as much of a surprise -- though it doesn't make it any less sad and disturbing. I guess John McCain was right when he wrote this.


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