Archive for the ‘mental health’ Category

Brain-injured troops face unclear long-term risks

December 4, 2008

Many of the thousands of troops who suffered traumatic brain injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan are at risk of long-term health problems including depression and Alzheimer’s-like dementia, but it’s impossible to predict how high those risks are, researchers say.

About 22 percent of wounded troops have a brain injury, concluded the prestigious Institute of Medicine — and it urged precise steps for studying how these patients fare years later so chances to help aren’t missed.

The Veterans Affairs Department, which requested the report, and the Pentagon already are taking some of the recommended steps. But a report out Thursday highlights the urgency.

By LAURAN NEERGAARD, AP Medical Writer

An Afghan soldier keeps watch at a checkpoint in Kabul in August ...

“I don’t think we really knew how big a hole in scientific knowledge there is about blast-induced brain injuries,” said Dr. George Rutherford of the University of California, San Francisco, the report’s lead researcher.

Traumatic brain injury, or TBI, is a signature injury of the Iraq war. Most do not involve penetrating head wounds but damage hidden inside the skull caused by an explosion’s pressure wave. It can range from a mild concussion to severe injury. And because symptoms may not be immediately apparent, troops may not seek care.

“If you have a gunshot wound to some specific part of your brain, I can tell you the consequences,” Rutherford said. But with blast concussions, it’s not even possible to say “if you have six of these, are you six times more likely to have something bad happen to you than if you’ve had one?”

Returning soldiers have reported headaches, dizziness, memory loss, confusion, irritability, insomnia and depression. The military has said most of the TBI-injured troops recover with treatment.

“There’s clearly a whole bunch of people who have mild TBI who have no negative outcomes,” Rutherford agreed.

Related:
PTSD, psychological health and traumatic brain injuries

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081204/ap_on_he_me/med_brain_injury

PTSD, psychological health and traumatic brain injuries

December 3, 2008

The number one question we see here at Peace and Freedom is: how can we better help soldiers returning from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?  Dealing appropriately with psychological health and traumatic brain injuries is the watchword…

****** 

The military finally is getting ahead in the head business — tackling the psychological health and traumatic brain injuries of soldiers and their families in a comprehensive way.

It’s happening at the moment under the leadership of an energetic, Shakespeare-quoting Army psychiatrist, Brig. Gen. Loree K. Sutton. Gen. Sutton holds a medical degree from Loma Linda University in Loma Linda, Calif. She completed her internship and residency in psychiatry at Letterman Army Medical Center in San Francisco.

By Ann Geracimos    
The Washington Times

Brig. Gen. Loree K. Sutton is director of the Defense Centers of Excellence, an arm of the Department of Defense dealing with the health and wellness of soldiers. The department seeks to care for troops before and after they suffer trauma. (Rod Lamkey Jr./The Washington Times)

Above: Brig. Gen. Loree K. Sutton is director of the Defense Centers of Excellence, an arm of the Department of Defense dealing with the health and wellness of soldiers. 

Gen. Sutton, 49, is director of the year-old Defense Centers of Excellence (DCoE), an arm of the Department of Defense dealing with health matters. The concept is to find the means of caring for troops and their leaders before, as well as after, service members and their relations suffer the debilitating effects of trauma.

The game plan focuses on building up what is being called “resilience” among the military’s many warrior volunteers as well as providing more and better treatment options for visible and invisible injuries of this type in a totally integrated program for recovery and reintegration. Gen. Sutton describes it as a network “like the Internet — a collaborative global network” functioning in a partnership, which is expected to take four years to put fully in place.

The plan, and its three R’s — resilience, recovery, reintegration — had a big workout at a recent three-day DCoE symposium, “Warrior Resilience Conference: Partnering With the Line,” and attended mainly by service members involved in health matters. Billed as the first of its kind, the event at the Fairfax Marriott at Fair Oaks typified what the organization sees as its mandate: promoting a shift of emphasis in the military away from what is known, in jargon terms, as an “illness-based medical model” toward a “wellness-centric resilience continuum.”

The latter phrase is a mouthful, with good reason, covering as it does a range of approaches that almost directly counter traditional military culture and practices.

“It’s ironic how the military trains us to overcome discomfort but not how to deal with invisible injuries,” Gen. Sutton notes. “As soldiers, we keep a lid on our feelings while we do our job. But nobody tells us when to take the lid off or how to deal with it when we do.”

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2008/dec
/02/military-marches-toward-wellness/

Some vindication for sick vets, but little relief

December 1, 2008

Ground combat in the 1991 Persian Gulf War lasted just 100 hours, but it’s meant 17 years of pain and anguish for hundreds of thousands of veterans.

Those who came home and complained of symptoms such as memory loss and joint pain are only sicker. Even as their lives unraveled as their health further deteriorated, many were told their problems were just in their head.

But, recently, many of the sufferers were given a new reason to hope. Earlier this month, a high-profile advisory panel to Veterans Affairs Secretary James Peake affirmed previous research that a collection of symptoms commonly known as Gulf War illnesses are real and require treatment. The country has a “national obligation” to help them, the panel concluded.

The report, however, also noted a sad reality: Of the $340 million in government funds spent to research the topic, little has focused on finding treatments. And, researchers said, the estimated 175,000-210,000 Gulf veterans who are sick aren’t getting any better.

By KIMBERLY HEFLING, Associated Press Writer

Many of those veterans are left wondering what’s next for them. The panel, created by Congress, said at least $60 million should be spent annually for research, but some veterans question if in these economically strapped times the money will be made available.

“I just hope that our elected officials pay attention to it and they accept that it is true,” said James Stutts, 60, of Berea, Ky., a retired Army lieutenant colonel and physician who struggles to walk and gave up practicing medicine because of memory problems after serving in the war. “It’s not a stress-related, nor is it a psychosomatic, issue. It is true. It is real. There is pain, not only for the veteran, but their families.”

The sad irony, said John Schwertfager, a veterans advocate in Ohio, is that many of the veterans who came home physically sick and were told wrongly it was a mental condition now struggle with real mental health problems after years of chronic pain and personal problems such as divorce and the inability to work.

“A slow, steady deterioration is what I’m seeing,” Schwertfager said.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081201/ap_on_
go_ot/gulf_war_illness;_ylt=AlMl3qpwj
.e._ihiBMQizYSs0NUE

Military Bases Brace for Surge in PTSD, Stress-Related Disorders

November 29, 2008

Some 15,000 soldiers are heading home to this sprawling base after spending more than a year at war in Iraq and Afghanistan, and military health officials are bracing for a surge in brain injuries and psychological problems among those troops.

By LOLITA C. BALDOR, Associated Press Writer

Facing prospects that one in five of the 101st Airborne Division soldiers will suffer from stress-related disorders, the base has nearly doubled its psychological health staff. Army leaders are hoping to use the base’s experiences to assess the long-term impact of repeated deployments.

The three 101st Airborne combat brigades, which have begun arriving home, have gone through at least three tours in Iraq. The 3rd Brigade also served seven months in Afghanistan, early in the war. Next spring, the 4th Brigade will return from a 15-month tour in Afghanistan. So far, roughly 10,000 soldiers have come back; the remainder are expected by the end of January.

Army leaders say they will closely watch Fort Campbell to determine the proper medical staffing levels needed to aid soldiers who have endured repeated rotations in the two war zones.

“I don’t know what to expect. I don’t think anybody knows,” said Gen. Peter Chiarelli, vice chief of staff of the Army, as he flew back to Washington from a recent tour of the base’s medical facilities. “That’s why I want to see numbers from the 101st’s third deployment.”

What happens with the 101st Airborne, he said, will let the Army help other bases ready for similar homecomings in the next year or two, when multiple brigades from the 4th Infantry Division and the 1st Cavalry Division return.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081129/ap_on_go_ca_st_pe/sol
dier_stress;_ylt=AmE8_PG3c.WU2jnAbvUzG3Ss0NUE

Veteran’s kin wants answers on PTSD drugs

November 13, 2008

A West Virginia man whose son survived the battlefields of Iraq only to die in his sleep at home is crusading to find other military families whose loved ones also have died after taking drugs prescribed for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

By Andrea Billups
The Washington Times 

Stan White’s son Andrew, who was found dead in bed at the family’s Cross Lanes, W.Va., home on Feb. 12, 2007, is one among a cluster of young veterans in the state who have died in their sleep with little explanation. Now Mr. White wants the federal government to monitor the drugs it prescribes to some 375,000 soldiers who have been diagnosed with mental trauma.

So far, he has identified nine veterans across the country – including four in West Virginia – who have died in their sleep after taking antidepressant and antipsychotic medications.

Mr. White has met with members of Congress and asked for Capitol Hill hearings to investigate the deaths. His research prompted a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) investigation into Andrew’s and one other death, which were found to have been caused by “combined drug intoxication.” But the investigation could not determine whether the prescribed medications were at fault….

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2008
/nov/13/veterans-kin-demands-answ
ers-on-ptsd-drugs/

General bucks culture of silence on mental health

November 8, 2008

It takes a brave soldier to do what Army Maj. Gen. David Blackledge did in Iraq. It takes as much bravery to do what he did when he got home.

Blackledge got psychiatric counseling to deal with wartime trauma, and now he is defying the military’s culture of silence on the subject of mental health problems and treatment.

By PAULINE JELINEK, Associated Press Writer

“It’s part of our profession … nobody wants to admit that they’ve got a weakness in this area,” Blackledge said of mental health problems among troops returning from America’s two wars.

In this photograph provided by Maj. Gen. David Blackledge, Blackledge, ... 
In this photograph provided by Maj. Gen. David Blackledge, Blackledge, right, stands in front of a helicopter in Iraq in this undated photograph. Blackledge got psychiatric counseling to deal with wartime trauma, and now is defying the military’s culture of silence on the subject of mental health problems and treatment. ‘It’s part of our profession … nobody wants to admit that they’ve got a weakness in this area,’ Blackledge said of mental health problems among troops returning from America’s two wars. The man at left is unidentified.(AP Photo/Blackledge Family Photo)

“I have dealt with it. I’m dealing with it now,” said Blackledge, who came home with post-traumatic stress. “We need to be able to talk about it.”

As the nation marks another Veterans Day, thousands of troops are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with anxiety, depression and other emotional problems.

Up to 20 percent of the more than 1.7 million who’ve served in the wars are estimated to have symptoms. In a sign of how tough it may be to change attitudes, roughly half of those who need help aren’t seeking it, studies have found.

Despite efforts to reduce the stigma of getting treatment, officials say they fear generals and other senior leaders remain unwilling to go for help, much less talk about it, partly because they fear it will hurt chances for promotion.

That reluctance is also worrisome because it sends the wrong signal to younger officers and perpetuates the problem leaders are working to reverse.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081108/ap_on_go_ca_st_pe/
military_mental_health;_ylt=AmZE9YFVxoU6x8QhB_jGf6Ws0NUE

Crisis: Soldiers, Marines Returning from War with Mental Health Issues

April 18, 2008

By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
.
Soldiers and Marines are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with mental health issues at an alarming rate.

According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, as many as 1 in 5 U.S. Soldiers and Marines returning from the war are suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Unfortunately, we at Peace and Freedom believe that the numbers will eventually exceed the GAO estimate.

We got interested in PTSD in the winter of 2006-2007 when visiting the mental health ward of the Veterans Administration Hospital in Washington DC with a friend. Every man in the waiting area had a story. Most served in Vietnam but my friend served in Korea.  All had PTSD.

After researching, we ended up with so much information collected from doctors, nurses and sufferers that I wrote a five article series on PTSD.

In February I wrote, “The VA vastly underestimated the number of PTSD cases it expected to see in 2006, predicting it would see 2,900 cases. As of June 2006, the VA had seen more than 34,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans for PTSD.”

In other words, the VA put a target on the barn then missed the barn and the state it was in.

Now the GAO says there may be 300,000 PTSD cases among the Soldiers and Marines returning from the war.

That may still be underestimated.

Why?

First: many soldiers have a “macho man” self estimate and refuse to admit that they need treatment.  We have hundreds of email from military families asking how they should deal with a “macho man” who is showing signs of PTSD, depression, drug and alcohol abuse and other mental health disorders that are probably war related.

Second: the costs of treatment could be staggering and long term.

And third: Many PTSD sufferers don’t appear in the medical system until years or even decades later after masking their symptoms with alcohol and drugs.

We have great respect for the GAO and the U.S. military.  Yet we believe the PTSD problem in the U.S. military to be catastrophic and still under estimated. 

We hope the issue of PTSD and all its variations including depression, alcoholism and drug abuse is tackled honestly and well by the United States.

Related:

War Wounds of the Mind Part VI: Half of Soldiers, Marines Returning With PTSD — Red Alert
http://johnib.wordpress.com/2007/05/05/war-wounds-of-the-mind-part-vi-soldiers-returning-with-ptsd-red-alert/

Read Part I at:
http://johnib.wordpress.com/2007/02/15/war-wounds-of-the-mind-part-i-historical-perspective-on-ptsd/

Read Part II at:
http://johnib.wordpress.com/2007/02/16/war-wounds-of-the-mind-part-ii-discussions-with-ptsd-sufferers/

War Wounds of the Mind Part III: The Commanders

War Wounds of The Mind Part IV: A Warning About Troops Returning from Iraq and Afghanistan

In God’s Hands Now: The Passing of a Stateless Soldier and a Good Man

Nearly 1 in 5 troops has mental problems after war service

April 17, 2008

By PAULINE JELINEK, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON – Roughly one in every five U.S. troops who have survived the bombs and other dangers of Iraq and Afghanistan now suffers from major depression or post-traumatic stress, an independent study said Thursday. It estimated the toll at 300,000 or more.
.
As many or more report possible brain injuries from explosions or other head wounds, said the study, the first major survey from outside the government.

U.S. troops search for Taliban forces during a patrol in Afghanistan's ... 
U.S. troops search for Taliban forces during a patrol in Afghanistan’s Shamal district of Khost province April 16, 2008. About 300,000 U.S. troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder or depression, but about half receive no care, an independent study said on Thursday.REUTERS/Rafal Gersza

Only about half of those with mental health problems have sought treatment. Even fewer of those with head injuries have seen doctors.

Army Surgeon General Eric Schoomaker said the report, from the Rand Corp., was welcome.

“They’re helping us to raise the visibility and the attention that’s needed by the American public at large,” said Schoomaker, a lieutenant general. “They are making this a national debate.”

The researchers said 18.5 percent of current and former service members contacted in a recent survey reported symptoms of depression or post-traumatic stress. Based on Pentagon data that more than 1.6 million have deployed to the two wars, the researchers calculated that about 300,000 are suffering mental health problems.

Nineteen percent — or an estimated 320,000 — may have suffered head injuries, the study calculated. Those range from mild concussions to severe, penetrating head wounds.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080417/ap_on_go_ca_
st_pe/troops_mental_health;_
ylt=AkKRKrcCTNidVr3yzaBFe.es0NUE

Related:
Crisis: Soldiers, Marines Returning from War with Mental Health Issues

Troop depression on rise in Afghanistan

March 6, 2008
By PAULINE JELINEK, Associated Press Writer 

WASHINGTON – U.S. troop morale improved in Iraq last year, but soldiers fighting in Afghanistan suffered more depression as violence there worsened, an Army mental health report says.

And in a recurring theme for a force strained by its seventh year at war, the annual battlefield study found once again that soldiers on their third and fourth tours of duty had sharply greater rates of mental health problems than those on their first or second deployments, according to several officials familiar with the report.

All spoke on condition of anonymity to….

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080306/ap_on_go_
ca_st_pe/troops_mental_health;_ylt=
Aiix9QQIVsx7t.Kf54Ccmbas0NUE

Life After Virginia Tech

September 6, 2007

By Larry Gordon
Los Angeles Times
September 4, 2007

Discussions about social life, academic success and meal plans still dominate college freshmen orientations, but a more somber note also is being heard this season as new students lug their laptops and mini-fridges into dorm rooms.

In the wake of the shooting rampage at Virginia Tech in April, many colleges and universities in California, and around the nation, are forcefully tackling issues of security and mental health during summer orientation seminars and greet-the-frosh gatherings with parents and new students before regular classes begin.

Some are introducing new emergency notification systems or reinforcing procedures already in place. Many are more explicitly telling students how and when to seek mental health counseling for themselves and urging them to report classmates who may need intervention, as the Virginia Tech gunman desperately did before he killed 32 people and himself in the campus massacre.

Read it all at:
http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-
secure4sep04,1,5720052.story?track=rss