With our military coming up on almost a full decade of constant war, some interesting studies are starting to emerge looking at mental health of our veterans from the first years of the wars to present day. Since 2001 up to one third of our veteran have shown signs of combat induced mental health issues, most of these being post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression. Some unexpected results were found about veterans who have had follow up mental health exams years after of being out of the service. Studies have found that out of nearly 300,000 veterans that were studied, most mental health issues did not start occurring until a year after they’ve been out of combat. Also veterans who have been diagnosed with mental health issue experienced worsening symptoms the longer they’ve been out of the combat zone.
The Times reports: “The researchers found that 37 percent of those people received mental health diagnoses. Of those, the diagnosis for 22 percent was post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, for 17 percent it was depression and for 7 percent it was alcohol abuse. One-third of the people with mental health diagnoses had three or more problems, the study found. The increase in diagnoses accelerated after the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the researchers found. Among the group of veterans who enrolled in veterans health services during the first three months of 2004, 14.6 percent received mental health diagnoses after one year. But after four years, the number had nearly doubled, to 27.5 percent. The study’s principal author, Dr. Karen H. Seal, attributed the rising number of diagnoses to several factors: repeat deployments; the perilous and confusing nature of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, where there are no defined front lines; growing public awareness of PTSD; unsteady public support for the wars; and reduced troop morale” (Dao, 7/16).
The really alarming fact about these findings is that even when these wars finally come to an end and all our forces pull out of the Middle East we will still have to deal with mental casualties of war for years to come. Our military has never seen this many recurring deployments and didn’t understand the implications that would arise from it. With studies gathering more and more data about the long term effects of mental health issues in our veterans this nation with come to find out that this war was more costly then we ever could have imagined.