Well, it’s been a slow week for sources, with people not getting back to me or bouncing me around. But, while I’m waiting for them I’m also digging deeper and watching more media coverage of mental illness in the military. While searching I came across the following 2010 article in USA Today: Mental Illness Costing Military Soldiers. According to the article, “the number of soldiers forced to leave the Army solely because of a mental disorder has increased by 64% from 2005 to 2009 and accounts for one in nine medical discharges.” And Joe Davis, a spokesman for Veterans of Foreign Wars, said, “the military is excellent at treating visible wounds. The military and entire medical community at large still have a long way to go to effectively and reliably screen and treat wounds to the head and mind. Before discharging troops for behavioral reasons, it is absolutely imperative that commanders first ask ‘What caused this?'”
First thing Monday, I’ll be touching base with my sources and getting in touch with Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Dart Center and USO, which is where the video of MSGT Mike Martinez came from. In it, he shares how traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post traumatic stress (PTS) have affected his life. (A big thanks to my professor who stumbled upon the video and sent it my way).
Also, here’s a video of Rachel Maddow highlighting the problems that veterans are facing. She interviews Paul Rieckhoff, the founder and executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, who talks about suicide in the military among other veteran issues. He said: “In January , we lost approximately 24 soldiers in the Army to suicide. That’s more folks than we lost in combat. We lost more soldiers to suicide in January 2009 than to al Qaeda.”
Playing catch-up. That seems to be the problem with the military and mental health not just on the front of providing services, but also in the media. It seems that the problem with mental health, the military and the media is that coverage of the issue seems to appear after a major incident or a major study comes out and perhaps this is where the problem lies – the lack of pre-emptive coverage and care.