Date: Friday, 27 February 2004, 11:14 a.m.
Source: UPI, Feb. 19; Newsweek, Feb, 21]
TEN PERCENT OF SOLDIERS MEDICALLY EVACUATED FROM IRAQ AND
AFGHANISTAN HAVE MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEMS, or approximately 1,000
out of nearly 12,000 soldiers that have been treated at the U.S.
Army's Landstuhl Medical Center in Germany. Col. Rhonda Cornum,
the commander of the hospital, told UPI, "We certainly have seen
an average, I would say, of 8 to 10 percent of our casualties
have some psychiatric or behavioral health issues for which they were evacuated."
That does not include soldiers with physical injuries
who are also experiencing mental health problems, or
mental health problems of soldiers who have been evacuated back to the U.S.
The psychiatric issue, naturally, plays into the suicide issue,
which has been getting increasing media attention lately.
William Winkenwerder, Assistant Secretary of Defense for
Health Affairs, admitted on Jan. 14 that Army suicides are "on
the high end of what they've been in the past," but Army Col.
Thomas J. Burke, the Pentagon's Program Director for Mental
Health Policy, said, in a Jan. 28 speech, that Iraq deployments
are not causing an increase in suicide.
Yet, the Army has still not released the report
of the mental health advisory team it sent to Iraq, last July,
to look into the mental health situation in Iraq.
The report was completed last November, but sources told
Newsweek, that the colonel in charge can't convince either
Central Command chief Gen. John Abizaid or Lt. Gen. Ricardo
Sanchez, the top commander in Iraq, to even allow him to brief them on his findings.
Newsweek reports there are two problems with the report.
One is that it doesn't touch on the issue of Lariam,
the anti-malarial drug that was cited as a possible factor
in a spate of murder- suicides among Afghan veterans
that hit Fort Bragg in 1992.
Secondly, the colonel in charge of the investigating team
was told what he wanted to hear by officers in Iraq, suggesting
that we may find out just how bad the problem is as tens of
thousands of soldiers rotate home over the next 3 or 4 months.