by Scott Mendelson, M.D.
Another sad story in the press. There have been four more suicides at Fort Hood, Texas. Military suicide numbers keep climbing. The rates of depression, PTSD and suicide are reaching startling proportions among soldiers and veterans. New programs begun by the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration are said to be designed to expand mental health care, and to make it more effective, palatable, and accessible to soldiers and veterans. They don't. As a psychiatrist employed by the VA who sees these broken soldiers on a daily basis, I find it infuriating and heartbreaking.
The new Mental Health programs, referred to by the Department of Defense as the acronym RESPECT-mil, and by the Veterans Administration as TIDES, are based on the Hamburger Helper model of health care. That is, if real care is too expensive, then dilute it with cheap care, fluff it up, advertise it well and make it look there is more there than there actually is. This brilliant new idea of the Veterans Administration and Department of Defense is intended to direct the psychiatric care of patients away from the people actually trained to provide this care, i.e., psychiatrists, psychologists, psychotherapists, and psychiatric nurse practitioners, and to place their care in the hands of less expensive people with weeks rather than years of training in mental health. This perspective includes the notion that mental health care is best provided away from stigma in the primary care setting, and that soldiers can be managed by primary care doctors helped by nurses with eight weekends of training to become what are called, "Champions."
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Source: The Huffington Post