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Sunday, August 13, 2006

Veterans Issues: FIGHT MENTAL ILLNESS STIGMA

A debate has emerged as to whether military personnel returning from Iraq suffering from post-traumatic stress are getting the treatment they need for their emotional and psychological problems.

VA Watchdog dor Org
Larry Scott
Story By: Tennessean dot Com
August 13, 2006

Experts have said not getting the needed therapy and medication can lead to escalating rates of divorce, domestic violence and DUI arrests, among other problems.

Unfortunately, one thing that is not debatable is many military personnel do not want to disclose emotional problems, fearing that it may jeaopardize their careers.

Others say a stigma attaches to soldiers who admit having problems, prompting many not to tell the truth on military mental health questionnaires.

Such an example can be found in a report issued in May by the Government Accountability Office indicating that fewer than one-quarter of the Iraq and Afghanastan war veterans who showed signs of post-traumatic stress between 2001 and 2004 were referred for further mental health treatment or evaluation.

A 2004 report by the New England Journal of Medicine found in part that "in the military, there are unique factors that contribute to resistance to seeking such help, particularly concern about how a soldier will be perceived by peers and the leadership.

Concern about stigma was disproportionately greatest among those in need of help from mental health services."

Mental health is a disease.

Over the years, there has been a stigma attached to mental ullness just as a stigma was attached to cancer for a long period of time.

But the stigma keeps people from seeking help.

That should not be the case with military personnel or anyone else.

Pentagon officials need to make sure treatment of PTSD is available for military personnel returning from the war, but they also need to work to help erase the stigma of mental illness.

Military personnel who need emotional and psychological help must not be afraid to seek it.

Neither should anyone else.


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