Mental Health and the Military
Over the past 6 years and and six months, their 2nd Brigade Combat Team (BCT) has been the most deployed brigade in the army. As of this month, the brigade had completed its fourth tour of Iraq. All in all, the soldiers of BCT have spent 40 months in Iraq.
And, not just in Iraq. They've done combat tours in Afghanistan also.
Meanwhile, the soldiers of the 2nd BCT have been given too little time off in between deployments: In one case they had only six months to mentally "re-set"; following an eight-month tour in Afghanistan -- before beginning a 12-month tour in Iraq.
The 12 months turned into 15. They haven't been handling that well.
This level of losses is unusual. "On their most recent deployment," the VFA report notes, "members of the 2nd BCT were more than five times as likely to be killed as others who have been deployed to OEF and OIF and more than four times likely to be wounded." One can only wonder to what degree depression and other mental health problems made them more vulnerable to attack.
They're back in Fort Drum, New York now. In the dead of winter, and many of them are severely depressed.
Soldiers told the VFA that "the leader of the mental health treatment clinic at Fort Drum asked soldiers not to discuss their mental health problems with people outside the base. Attempts to keep matters 'in house' foster an atmosphere of secrecy and shame," the report observed "that is not conducive to proper treatment for combat-related mental health injuries."
That's the way the military likes to handle mental health problems. Ignore it. Sweep it under the rug. Be tough. The military Officer Corp is really very poorly trained in how to actually work with people. The command structure of the military is still based on some 19th century idea of command by bluster and threats.
I served on a ship for a short period with a guy who had chronic sea sickness. It was really bad. He simply couldn't function at sea. Not at all. He came to our ship from some brig time after he'd gone over the hill before a 6 month deployment on his last ship. They busted him to E1 and put him on another ship. The official Navy diagnosis was that he was a slacker.
One day, while we were tied up alongside a pier in San Diego, we were below deck, having coffee in the berthing compartment and he started turning green and getting sick. He claimed we were moving. It turns out we were moving. We didn't know it but the ship had been untied from the pier and pushed out by a tug so that another ship could slip in and tie up pierside (then they tied us up alongside that ship). His body could detect that slight movement. And it was so slight that none of the other 6 or so experienced sailors with us below could feel it.
He wasn't a slacker. He was a hard worker who did his job in port. I only went to sea with him once. On a three day trip to the yards in Bremerton he was completely incapacitated. I got out of the Navy shortly after that so I don't know what happened to him. I'm pretty sure they just kept sending him to the brig until they tired of him then gave him a BCD and let him loose to try to repair his destroyed life as best he could. All because Navy psychiatrists kept diagnosing him as perfectly healthy, as a guy who was faking it to try to get out of a deployment to Vietnam.
That was absurd thinking at best. If the Navy would have dealt with his illness as it should have they'd have simply found a shore duty assignment for him. In 1968, for a bos'n mate, that would have meant some warehouse or dockside line-handling job in-country. Getting out of sea duty wasn't a way to escape danger. But the Navy was just pretty much run by idiots. The military is still run by idiots.
Labels: mental illness