Sharp increase in mental illness among US troops during 2007

Published on WSWS, by James Cogan, 29 May 2008.

American military personnel deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan are being diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in rapidly increasing numbers, according to statistics released on Tuesday by the US Army Surgeon-General.

In 2003, 1,020 army personnel and 206 marines were diagnosed while on deployment. The figures had climbed to 6,876 and 1,366 by 2006. Last year, PTSD cases leapt to 10,049 and 2,114—ten times the number before the Bush administration launched the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Including Navy and Air Force cases, 39,366 members of the US military were officially diagnosed as suffering from the debilitating illness between January 1, 2003 and December 31, 2007, during their deployment in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The release of the figures follows testimony in March by Gerald Cross, Deputy Under Secretary for Veterans Health Administration, in a class action against the US government by Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans United for Truth. Cross testified that of 300,000 Afghanistan and Iraq veterans who had been treated in Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities, half were diagnosed with a serious mental illness, including 68,000 with PTSD.

PTSD is defined as a “common anxiety disorder that develops after exposure to a terrifying event or ordeal in which grave physical harm occurred or was threatened”. Its symptoms—such as flashbacks, nervousness, insomnia and avoidance of contact with others—have been noted among soldiers returning from war for hundreds of years. Sufferers are prone to self-harm, ranging from suicide to substance abuse, as well as to outbursts of aggression against others … (full text).

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