May 5, 2008

Bloomberg reported this week on yet another devastating and deadly aspect of the war in Iraq: the U.S. troops, burdened with post-traumatic stress, who commit suicide.

The number of suicides among veterans of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may exceed the combat death toll because of inadequate mental health care, the U.S. government's top psychiatric researcher said.

Community mental health centers, hobbled by financial limits, haven't provided enough scientifically sound care, especially in rural areas, said Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland. He briefed reporters today at the American Psychiatric Association's annual meeting in Washington.

Insel echoed a Rand Corporation study published last month that found about 20 percent of returning U.S. soldiers have post- traumatic stress disorder or depression, and only half of them receive treatment.

hilzoy added:

The Rand study (pdf) also found that of the roughly half of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who had PTSD, major depression, or a probable traumatic brain injury and who sought treatment, "just over half received a minimally adequate treatment." (p. xxii)

Some things in life are hard. But getting the number of vets who get minimally adequate treatment over 50% is not one of them. You train the doctors. If those treatments cost more, you provide the money. You do what you need to do to make sure that when someone walks in the door looking for help, s/he finds it.

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