A report released by a congressionally ordered mental health task force suggests that the military’s handling of mental health problems in its ranks is even worse than Mother Jones previously reported (with little to no cooperation from the DoD, by the way). According to NPR, 40 percent of troops returning from Iraq or Afghanistan have some sort of psychological problem. Nearly a quarter show signs of serious mental health disorders.
It gets worse: Soldiers reporting psychological problems are not only not helped, but actually get punished for their illnesses. Some are sent to clean the latrines; others, in an image disturbingly resonant of Abu Ghraib, must sit in a corner wearing a dunce camp for long periods of time. At one army base, many soldiers were kicked out of the services following psychological complaints.
The Pentagon doesn’t spend enough on mental health services, nor does it train troops, officers or even mental health care providers adequately. Believe it or not, even military doctors aren’t well trained about the links between war and PTSD. For reasons NPR’s correspondent doesn’t address, since the War on Terror began, the few mental health specialists the DoD has “have been leaving the Army, the Marines, and the Air Force in droves.” Problem is, neither the soldiers nor their demons miraculously disappear after they are released with inadequate or no treatment. The Pentagon is outsourcing their care—to you and me and the rest of us who oppose the war in Iraq.