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babylonsister Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Jun-16-07 09:54 PM
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Pentagon Report Criticizes Troops' Mental-Health Care
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Pentagon Report Criticizes Troops' Mental-Health Care

By Ann Scott Tyson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, June 16, 2007; Page A02

U.S. troops returning from combat in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer "daunting and growing" psychological problems -- with nearly 40 percent of soldiers, a third of Marines and half of the National Guard members reporting symptoms -- but the military's cadre of mental-health workers is "woefully inadequate" to meet their needs, a Pentagon task force reported yesterday.

The congressionally mandated task force called for urgent and sweeping changes to a peacetime military mental health system strained by today's wars, finding that hundreds of thousands of the more than 1 million U.S. troops who have served at least one war-zone tour in Iraq or Afghanistan are showing signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety or other potentially disabling mental disorders.

"Not since Vietnam have we seen this level of combat," said Vice Adm. Donald Arthur, co-chairman of the Department of Defense Mental Health Task Force. "With this increase in . . . psychological need, we now find that we have not enough providers in our system," he said at a Pentagon news conference yesterday unveiling the report. "Clearly, we have a deficit in our availability of mental-health providers."

The ongoing "surge" of more than 30,000 additional U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan will exacerbate this gap, as will the rapid growth in the number of soldiers, Marines and other troops -- now about half a million -- who have served more than one combat tour, heightening the risk of mental illnesses, the report said.

As in the aftermath of Vietnam, the costs of untreated mental illness will rise dramatically over time, the report warned. "Our nation learned this lesson, at a tragic cost," it said. "The time for action is now."

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