Still Unfit For Duty - Mercedes-Benz Forum

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post #1 of 1 (permalink) Old 02-11-2007, 04:52 PM Thread Starter
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Still Unfit For Duty

U.S. soldiers in Iraq are still killing themselves at high rates, although the military says it is trying harder to screen troops for mental illnesses.

The military reported 22 self-inflicted deaths among Army troops in Iraq in 2006, the same number as in 2005 - but more than a dozen cases from last year are still under review. If more suicides are confirmed, 2006 could exceed the 2005 record of 19.9 suicides per 100,000 Army soldiers in Iraq.

This is astonishing for a group that is screened - supposedly - for suicidal tendencies and mental disorders before going to war.

The Army promised to do better after The Courant reported last year that fewer than 1 in 300 troops saw a mental health professional before heading to Iraq. Once in the field, troops with mental problems were rarely referred for evaluation. Soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder were often sent back to Iraq again and again.

The consequences of the Army's failures were horrific and heartbreaking for soldiers and their families. The Courant's investigation found that some troops were kept on duty despite suicidal thoughts that their supervisors knew about. Army Spec. Edward W. Brabazon of Pennsylvania, for example, had spent his early teenage years in a psychiatric hospital and group homes for the emotionally disturbed. He went straight from a group home to the recruiting office when he turned 18. He shot himself in the head in Baghdad when he was 20 and on his second deployment to the Middle East.

The Army said it has expanded mental health screenings and is recommending that troops who develop mental problems in Iraq be sent home if they don't improve with two weeks of treatment. With these new guidelines, the Army expects a drop in suicides for 2007.

But a mental health survey in December was dismaying. More than half the soldiers polled said suicide-prevention training was inadequate in identifying comrades at risk, and a third of the mental-health providers in Iraq said they were themselves battling burnout.

A separate survey in 2005 found high levels of stress and depression throughout all the military. Perhaps, as a chaplain says, "the pressures of the Army are greater than ever." That doesn't excuse the Army for ignoring clear signs of suicidal danger.

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