The Last Battle: Is The Army Doing Enough To Help Soldiers Suffering From Mental Health Problems?

Greg Barnes | | September 23, 2012

The Army has rolled out program after program aimed at identifying and helping soldiers who suffer from mental health problems related to a decade of war. Despite those efforts, figures show that soldiers and veterans continue to commit crimes and take their own lives in record numbers.

Through July, Fort Bragg reported 13 suspected or confirmed cases of soldiers who committed suicide this year, the most of any military installation and on pace to far outstrip the 15 suicides recorded in 2011. Another 40 Fort Bragg soldiers tried to kill themselves between January and June of this year. Nationwide, the 38 soldiers confirmed or suspected of killing themselves in July was the highest monthly total on record. The figures are far worse for the nation's veterans, who are taking their own lives at a rate of 18 a day, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Suicides are only one barometer of the mental health of soldiers and veterans. Years of research indicate that multiple deployments and the stress of combat are leading to a dramatic increase in soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and substance abuse. These soldiers often end up in trouble - in their units, at home or with the law.

Magazines and newspapers - including The Fayetteville Observer - have written extensively about these "hidden wounds" of war. Again and again, mental health professionals have warned that the problems are growing. Two years ago, one Fayetteville advocate put it this way: "We're already seeing the tropical storm is here, and the tsunami is coming because of the 10 years of war and the impact that it's had on military members and their families."...