Newsweek and MSNBC both have very serious and intense articles about what is lacking in care for those returning from Iraq. The story of Jonathan Schulze had me already crying into my coffee this morning. Now, I know that there are many, many, many returning soldiers and many more sad stories, but this just happens to be one of the many that were chosen for this article. It in no way means that I am indifferent to any of them. As a matter of fact my friend Jane, whose son Brett is over there, has told me recently about how intense and angry his calls home have been of late. His best friend was killed while they were on the same mission. I am sure that he will require some type of mental counseling upon his return, but will it be readily available? There are many questions.
A military task force put together a panel that has put forth a 67 page report that, among other things, states that the military mental health sysytem is overwhelmed and understaffed. Do you think that they have had enough time, duration of this war, to work on preparing themselves for this outcome? They site a 40% vacancy rate for active duty psychologists and a weak transition for those leaving active duty.
There has always been a stigma attached to the act of getting mental help, but it seems to be even more so for military personel who are always expected to tough it out and suck it up. They might be more inclined to try and go it on their own, and as in the case of Jonathan Schulze medicate with alcohol. Although his story ends very sadly there might still be hope for the many more returning vets if help is placed in the correct areas.
The study found that more than 3 out of 10 met the criteria for a "mental disoredre" but far less than half even sought help. Partly due to the stigma attached, but also due to the lack of availability. The task force was chaired by an active duty military psychologist who said,".... that realitively few high quality mental health programs exist in the military right now." That is sad indeed. Especially for the families and friends of those returning. Hopefully they will not have to endure the sad ending that the family of Jonathan Schulze did.