Tuesday, October 21

More active duty personnel die by own hand than combat

I attended a lecture on Wounded Minds at the old alma mater. Fascinating stuff. the lecturer talked about the following:

The First World War not only shaped the lives of thousands of young men and their families but also sparked a significant transformation in the treatment and understanding of mental illness. For many the trauma of war didn’t end with the final gunshot; the phenomenon of shell shock saw soldiers return home still reeling from the horror of what they’d seen. Whilst many of their symptoms – dizziness, loss of appetite, and deafness – were typical of having sustained a head injury, many soldiers had no such wounds and some hadn’t even been on the front line.
Leading physicians and neurologists alike, baffled by what they were seeing, began to think differently about psychiatric disorders, producing new causal theories and treatment initiatives. By the end of the war over 240,000 cases of shell shock had passed through British Army medical facilities. With treatments researched and out-patient units emerging, psychological medicine had truly arrived.
Whilst the term ‘shell shock’ has since become redundant, with psychologists preferring ‘Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder’ (PTSD), there’s no doubt that what this phenomenon taught us about mental illness remains as invaluable as it ever was.
As we mark 100 years since the start of the Great War, we are delighted to invite you to join Professor Sir Lawrence Freedman, Professor of War studies, Professor Sir Simon Wessely, Director of the
King's Centre for Military Health Research, and Professor Edgar Jones,Professor in the History of Medicine and Psychiatry, to examine the appearance of shell shock during the First World War, the struggles faced by affected soldiers and exactly how it impacted our understanding of mental health then and now.

anyway, there was one point which they mentioned which made me go look for more information. And this was the story of George McQuay.

Here’s the soldier before he left for the war.


then he left for the war. mental health treatment was pretty much rudimentary. Shell Shock was considered to be “cowardice”, he came back to Australia with complete loss of memory, depression. So they ran a campaign to find out who he was. After many many misses, his mother found him, from NZ!

meeting2[1] stroll[1]

Such a tragic story. But you know what fucks me off? Is how easy we think of sending our troops into battle. Here are some statistics about the PSTD incidents. I quote,

Summary of Veterans Statistics for PTSD, TBI, Depression and Suicide.

  • there are over 2.3 million American veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars (compared to 2.6 million Vietnam veterans who fought in Vietnam; there are 8.2 million "Vietnam Era Veterans" (personnel who served anywhere during any time of the Vietnam War)
  • at least 20% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have PTSD and/or Depression. (Military counselors I have interviewed state that, in their opinion, the percentage of veterans with PTSD is much higher; the number climbs higher when combined with TBI.) Other accepted studies have found a PTSD prevalence of 14%; see a complete review of PTSD prevalence studies, which quotes studies with findings ranging from 4 -17% of Iraq War veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder)
  • 50% of those with PTSD do not seek treatment
  • out of the half that seek treatment, only half of them get "minimally adequate" treatment (RAND study)
  • 19% of veterans may have traumatic brain injury (TBI)
  • Over 260,000 veterans from OIF and OEF so far have been diagnosed with TBI. Traumatic brain injury is much more common in the general population than  previously thought: according to the CDC, over 1,700,000 Americans have a traumatic brain injury each year; in Canada 20% of teens had TBI resulting in hospital admission or that involved over 5 minutes of unconsciousness (VA surgeon reporting in BBC News)
  • 7% of veterans have both post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury
  • rates of post-traumatic stress are greater for these wars than prior conflicts
  • in times of peace, in any given year, about 4% (actually 3.6%) of the general population have PTSD (caused by natural disasters, car accidents, abuse, etc.)
  • recent statistical studies show that rates of veteran suicide are much higher than previously thought (see suicide prevention page).
  • PTSD distribution between services for OND, OIF, and OEF: Army 67% of cases, Air Force 9%, Navy 11%, and Marines 13%. (Congressional Research Service, Sept. 2010)
  • recent sample of 600 veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan found: 14% post-traumatic stress disorder; 39% alcohol abuse; 3% drug abuse. Major depression also a problem. "Mental and Physical Health Status and Alcohol and Drug Use Following Return From Deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan." Susan V. Eisen, PhD
  • Oddly, statistics for veteran tobacco use are never reported alongside PTSD statistics, even though increases in rates of smoking are strongly correlated with the stress of deployment and combat, and smoking statistics show that tobacco use is tremendously damaging and costly for soldiers.
  • More active duty personnel die by own hand than combat in 2012 (New York Times)

I hate war, and I hate a foreign policy which requires needless deployment of soldiers. By all means, defend the country, but to send them to Kurdistan? why? So the Islamic State will win over, sod it.

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