At an increasing rate, the number of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) patients is being tracked as the war in Iraq and Afghanistan continue.
As the war in Iraq enters its 5th year, the affects on the troops continue also. Along with the physical injuries, many also suffer from PTSD. The number of soldiers increased 46% last year, brining the total to 38,000 since the war began.
So, what is PTSD? Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is an illness that stems from the trauma of physical injury, as well as seeing other hurt or killed. The symptoms of PTSD can result in irritability and outbursts of anger and sleep difficulties, trouble concentrating, extreme vigilance and an exaggerated startle response. Often the the events are relived over and over again, resulting in horror and/or helplessness. While the war has brought PTSD into the spot light, the symptoms and realities of the illness are evident in abuse victims as well.
While many may consider it a simple case of bad memories, it can be debilitating and take away a life once known.
U.S. Military facilities statistics recorded 9,549 cases in 2006, jumped to 13,981 last year. The rise in numbers coincides with the increase in deployments, along with the tours of duty being extended from 12 months to 15 months.
The number of PTSD patients, when combined with all branches of the military the number sits at 38,186 between 1/1/03 and 12/31/07. This number includes 28.365 for the Army and 5,641 for the Marines. One reason for the jump in number is the growing awareness of the illness and making a greater effort to track and help those who have PTSD. In addition, as troops return to combat fro multiple tours of duty; the likelihood of them developing PTSD also increases.
In a step to further help for these veterans, the Pentagon is being pressured and rightly so, to enhance the current treatments for PTSD. For some returning troops, seeking treatment or help their PTSD is not an option, for fear of repercussions and how it will after their future military career.
Many will hide their fears and nightmares in order to keep their jobs. For this reason Defense Secretary has brought forth a change for the U.S. government clearance process that would allow these individuals to maintain their careers and clearances and receive the treatment needed to any illness.
I have touched on this topic previously here and here, and my comments remain the same. Though it is a terrible way to seek improvements to the mental healthy system, the war has unfortunately brought many illnesses to light and made them acceptable and real.
It is my hope that these changes and advances will remain even after all troops have returned home. These illness are often long term, a quick "cure" is not available.