Friday, December 08, 2006

Response to Story on Ft. Carson

Re: Soldiers Say Army Ignores, Punishes Mental Anguish
by Daniel Zwerdling

To my friends that have followed the National Public Radio coverage of Fort Carson soldiers returning from Iraq and the obstacles they face in getting mental health care for PTSD, I would like to state
the following:

According to my friends in upper levels of army mental health care,
they are very aware of the problems covered in the NPR report. They
feel the report was well done and more could have been added.

Yesterday, we exchanged emails about the NPR report when I pointed out
it's my belief the negative attitudes about mental health care are
formulated in basic training with the "unit watch" program that
killed my son. One of my friends, a doctor who is involved in
research for the army, listed the following problems:

-Overcoming the stigma about mental health care, particularly among
young male sergeants, including drill sergeants.

-The army is facing a big shortage of Mental Health providers
resulting in soldiers waiting weeks just for assessment before proper
treatment can be started. This, according to my friend, is totally

-The connection between the Department of Defense and the Veteran's
Administration is poor, resulting in soldiers not getting treatment
when they leave active duty.

Other problems my friend felt the NPR report didn't cover is the
difficulty the army has detecting delayed onset PTSD in reservists
and guardsmen facing reemployment and those who are malingering for
secondary gains, such as avoiding another deployment, tying up the
services that are available.

I know another major problem the army faces that my friend didn't
mention is working with an insufficient budget. This is the reason
for the shortage of the mental health care providers. Most of the
money is being spent elsewhere in support of the war effort in Iraq
and Afghanistan. I have personally met several army doctors who
dropped out of the service before finishing their twenty-year
retirement because of restrictions placed on them in caring for their
patients and the opportunity of a more lucrative career in the
civilian market.

Thought this information might be of value to members of our group.

Submitted by Richard Stites

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