Tuesday, May 06, 2008

American Soldiers affected by post-combat depression

A few months ago I had blogged about how an increasing number of US soldiers are committing suicide due to post-combat stress and related depressions and also about the high price, the world in general and America in particular have to pay for the Iraq war.

On May 1, 2008 I read another article equally shocking in the Dallas Morning News. According to the article posted above, nearly 20 percent of the 1.6 million (320,000) soldiers who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from mental health problems. But alarmingly less than half of those affected are seeking help. Military personnell are hesitant to approach a mental health professional because they feel that it might harm their careers.

This is both very sad and dangerous. Sad because these innocent, patriotic and committed men and women are suffering silently. Dangerous because this mental illness will make them act differently and might cause problems to others around them. Guantanamo bay was one such example, killing civilians, torturing prisoners inhumanly and other sadistic behaviour could be a result. The articles states that thousands of troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are suffering from war-related anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress.

Psychologists and mental health professionals recommend therapy and medication to these people, which is the need of the hour. But I would like to examine the reasons due to which these brave soldiers end up being emotional wrecks and psychological disasters in the face of adverse circumstances in Iraq and Afghanistan. Are they scared of danger? Do they miss family? Do they miss the comforts and prosperty which they take for granted at home?

I would like to draw a parallel to the Indian army, which has been fighting a proxy war with Pakistan since the past three decades (30 years). There have been cases of suicides, mental trauma but not at these astronomical numbers. Every soldier/ officer serving in the borders, fighting to be alive and keep the country's peace intact have tremendous family support. Which unfortunately is not so great in the US. I have written in my article on the Iraq War, about how many divorces have taken place due to long term deployment of forces in Iraq.

The societal structure in the US is very open and lays lot of emphasis on individuals rights and preferences. It doesn't lay a spiritual significance to relationships. While in India the culture and societal structure is strong and lays great emphasis on survival of families and intra-family bonding. Between cousins, siblings and even second and third cousins. I believe if there was adequate family support to these young and old soldiers who have been deployed at far flung locations they would not suffer so much trauma and mental stress.


Anonymous said...

Thank you! I am, at the moment, dealing with this exact situation. More people need to be aware and encourage friends and family members to seek some sort of help, even if they don't think they were affected by their experience. The war affects EACH and EVERY person who is a part of it, even if they are not witnessing fighting, killing, bombing, carnage, etc.

Sahasi said...

Thanks for the comment. I agree with you everyone needs to seek help, if family support is not there then professional help is the need of the hour.

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