Stress epidemic strikes American forces in Iraq
January 25, 2004 4:30 PM   Subscribe

Stress epidemic strikes American forces in Iraq Up to one in five of the American military personnel in Iraq will suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, say senior forces' medical staff dealing with the psychiatric fallout of the war. This revelation follows the disclosure last month that more than 600 US servicemen and women have been evacuated from the country for psychiatric reasons since the conflict started last March.
posted by Postroad (24 comments total)
In other news, cure for stress found : don't make war make love
posted by elpapacito at 4:48 PM on January 25, 2004

meanwhile halliburton does business with the enemy.
posted by specialk420 at 4:57 PM on January 25, 2004

Interesting post.

On a sidenote, specialk420, no one is stopping you from posting that to the front page. Your link has absolutely no direct, or even tangential, connection to Postroad's post.
posted by BlueTrain at 5:02 PM on January 25, 2004

I'm against the war but I don't find the numbers alarming. The suicide rate went up to 13.5/100000 from 11/100000 but the most important part is this, the 11/100000 is for recent years. We weren't at war with anybody in recent years. I have tremendous respect for soldiers and I sympathize with them but how does the suicide rate compare to any of the altercations during Clinton's, G.H.W. Bush's, Reagan's, Carter's, Ford's, Nixon's, Johnson's or Kennedy's? Being in an actual shooting war has to be tremendously stressful. You're surrounded by people who wish to do you harm, you're far away from home and family and you're still faced with mounting bills and debt while you're away.
posted by substrate at 5:09 PM on January 25, 2004

Blue Train - personally, I'm happy for all the war related newsfilter gubbins to go into one thread rather than cover the front page.
posted by andrew cooke at 5:36 PM on January 25, 2004

Uh guys, why are we whispering? ;-)
posted by Wulfgar! at 5:40 PM on January 25, 2004

because the golden globes are on?

Postroad, great (but awful) post--the husband of a woman I work with is a psychologist at a va hospital, and they're staffing up to meet the expected heavy demand.
posted by amberglow at 5:42 PM on January 25, 2004

Important note on traumatic stress: While this 20% may show some symptoms in theater, most will "miraculously" get better when rotated stateside. However, this does not mean that they are a-ok.
Symptoms will start to re-emerge after a while, and there will be a strong demand on services that render psychological help, especially medical and clergy.
Based on previous experience, about 50% of those affected with symptoms from mild to severe will spontaneously get better. These days, a majority of the rest will profit to some extent from psychoactive drugs such as antidepressants; whereas before they only had counseling and alcohol.
Only a tiny minority will require extensive psychiatric care, or be otherwise institutionalized (prison), being unable to cope. They may be statistically the same as if they had not been in a war theater.

(As an aside, a WWII vet told me that there was some concern in the US about returning soldiers being hardened "rapists and murderers." Newspapers of the time made great hay whenever a vet committed a major violent crime, as evidence that, as a group, they were mentally unstable.)
posted by kablam at 5:53 PM on January 25, 2004

meanwhile halliburton does business with the enemy.

In other words, the Vice President's former company, which is still paying him back salary, is underwriting the "Axis of Evil." Of course we knew that, but it gets no easier to stomach.
posted by homunculus at 8:06 PM on January 25, 2004

I'd think that police duty - under these circumstances, given that they're sitting ducks for a hostile opposition - would be at least as stressful as combat duty. At least in combat duty you have an objective to go after, and some idea of where the bullets are going to come from.

Constant mid-level stress is worse than occassional emergencies, I think. (At least, skimming "Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers" confirmed this prejudice of mine.)
posted by lbergstr at 9:47 PM on January 25, 2004

This is confusing. Surely these people had an inkling, when they decided to join the army, that running around blowing people up and getting shot at might be quite a stressful thing to do for a living? Sure, if they were drafted then I'd have the greatest sympathy - but no-one forced them into the forces (and no - college debt bribery doesn't count.. if you're not smart enough to figure out that joining the army may well entail high levels of stress, then you aren't smart enough to be going to college anyway. Learn a trade.)
posted by cell at 12:12 AM on January 26, 2004

...specific companies that have invested in these rogue countries, including Halliburton, Conoco-Phillips and General Electric

Whores, every one of them! Time for boycott perhaps?
That is, if you can figure out who owns what these days!

Thanks for that link specialk420.
posted by LouReedsSon at 3:58 AM on January 26, 2004

And to comment on the fpp...

I often wonder if this affliction would be taken more seriously by more people if its label hadn't been so watered-down over the years. Goerge Carlin pointed out how WWI vets suffered shell shock, very specific, to the point, understood completely by nearly anyone, including those who never experienced it. WWII vets dealt with battle fatique. Still directly related to war, but a lttle easier on the imagination, I suppose. Operational exhaustion came next and well, that could mean just about anything. But now we have post-traumatic stress disorder and that term is so far removed from from the original discription that I wonder if the masses care or simply think those who suffer it are just a bunch of sissy's? Hats off those who successfully manipulate language, eh? There aughta be a law... :)
posted by LouReedsSon at 4:14 AM on January 26, 2004

Compassionate conservatism as expressed by cell.

Ain't it grand?

Good to see people "supporting the troops" so strongly when it doesn't involve also supporting aWol.
posted by nofundy at 5:04 AM on January 26, 2004

cell: Surely these people had an inkling...

If the recruitment blurb is similar to that in the UK, maybe not. We had the same thing: people recruited during peacetime with the line that it was the place to learn a trade, get your City & Guilds certificate, and visit exotic foreign places - then they found themselves posted to be shot at in Northern Ireland and the Falklands War.
posted by raygirvan at 6:51 AM on January 26, 2004

If anyone else has a clue what nofundy is going on about (and if it's worth explaining), please translate.

Rayqirvan: I'm in the UK too, and the only kids I knew in school who actually believed that blurb were, well, thick. Plenty of others signed up knowing exactly what they were getting into.
posted by cell at 7:10 AM on January 26, 2004

Translation: The soldiers getting killed and pyschologically scarred in Iraq are expendable because they're dumb SOBs anyway. Sound like a pretty accurate translation of your statements that even a dumbass can understand?

I posit that they should not be written off, intelligent or challenged. Although I totally disagree with aWol and the Iraq war these soldiers do not deserve such disrespect
posted by nofundy at 10:17 AM on January 26, 2004

I don't see any need to get into such contentious matters as what anyone deserves. No one could argue that post-traumatic stress is inconsistent with what the Bush administration has put these soldiers into.

Whether or not this epidemic of psychological breakdown is "deserved" is impossible to determine; however, it is logical and consistent that it is happening.

It makes me sad and angry: our country could have made so much more out of the lives that it has ended and crippled.
posted by squirrel at 10:43 AM on January 26, 2004

No idea what "aWol" is (I know AWOL, but your capitalisation suggests it's not that) but my position is that although they shouldn't be out there to begin with, physical and psychological damage is an occupational hazard that they accepted the risk of when they signed up. It's like a commercial diver complaining about eventual bone necrosis.

What I would (and probably will, unfortunately) strongly object to is the subsequent unfair treatment of these individuals by the government - reduction of benefits etc. They knowingly risked their health for their country, and their country should look after them in return. But stress is just part of being shot at.
posted by cell at 10:45 AM on January 26, 2004

But stress is just part of being shot at.

True enough, but perhaps the ads seen on television go too far making military service look like some sort of self-improvement workshop or vo-tech school.
posted by drstrangelove at 11:35 AM on January 26, 2004

aWol = George W. Bush. Where have you been the past 3 years?

AWOL = Absent Without Official Leave

Extended period of AWOL = desertion

18 months spent in Alabama without official leave by GWB = desertion
posted by nofundy at 12:22 PM on January 26, 2004

Details here and here.
posted by homunculus at 1:58 PM on January 26, 2004

like some sort of self-improvement workshop or vo-tech school.

...which is precisely the point I was making about UK recruitment ads. Recently, we've had one about "how would you cope with driving through a wood in the dark?"; one about "how would you get a team with an injured man in stretcher over a ravine?"; and one about "how would you placate an armed African man guarding a well?" (easy - take your sunglasses off and make eye contact). Funnily enough, nothing about "how would you cope with multiple bullet wounds in the abdomen?"
posted by raygirvan at 7:35 PM on January 26, 2004

I'm surprised no one has made a sendup of those ridiculous Army commercials yet, raygirvan. I mean, "An Army of One"? What the hell is an army of one? Well, I suppose they say that everyone dies alone. Looks like we've made at least 500 armies of one in the last year.
posted by squirrel at 10:44 AM on January 27, 2004

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