2005 June 28 Tuesday
How Many Troops Returning From Iraq Will Suffer Mental Disabilities?

What portion of soldiers returning from Iraq will suffer Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or other emotional illnesses as a result of their military service in a war zone? One estimate for expected PTSD puts it at 20%.

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — Almost half of the Vermont National Guard troops returning from combat have claimed some level of physical or psychological disability, and at least 20 percent of all Vermont troops are expected to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, officials at the Veterans Administration Hospital in White River Junction predict.

“What happens is that the vets who come back right now obviously have some readjustment because they’re coming from a hostile area back to a normal sense of life,” said Anselm Beach, a spokesman for the VA hospital. “PTSD, however, is more of a long-term diagnosis. Some of it could be chronic and some of it may not be.”

Some mental health officials say the VA’s estimate of 20 percent may be conservative because PTSD often doesn’t surface for months or even years. State officials say the figure could be as high as 30 percent.

15% of Vietnam vets suffered from PTSD 13 years after the war ended. Of course almost all of them returned well before the fall of Saigon.

The National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study calculated that, in 1988, 13 years after the conflict had ended, the prevalence of PTSD in Vietnam veterans was 15 percent, and that 30 percent had experienced the disorder at some point since returning from the war.

Dr. Charles Hoge, a researcher with Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, found that one eighth of returing soldiers from Iraq were reportiing symptoms consistent with PTSD.

Hoge was one of the authors of a study of returning troops published in June 2004 in The New England Journal of Medicine, which found that about one in eight returning soldiers reported symptoms of PTSD, but less than half of those with problems sought help, mostly out of fear of being stigmatized or hurting their careers.

In 2004 161,000 Vietnam vets were receiving compensation for PTSD.

-- 15.2 percent of all male veterans (479,000 out of 3,140,000 who served in Vietnam) and 8.1 percent of women (610 out of 7,200) were diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder in a 1986-1988 study by the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Survey (NVVRS).

-- Almost half of all male Vietnam veterans suffering from PTSD had been arrested or in jail at least once, 34.2 percent more than once and 11.5 percent had been convicted of a felony, according to the same survey.

-- VA statistics in 2004 showed that 161,000 veterans were still receiving disability compensation for PTSD.

Women soldiers returning from Iraq suffer PTSD at much higher rates than men.

-- According to a 2005 VA study of 168,528 Iraqi veterans, 20 percent were diagnosed with psychological disorders, including 1,641 with PTSD.

-- In an earlier VA study this year, almost 12,500 of nearly 245,000 veterans visited VA counseling centers for readjustment problems and symptoms of PTSD.

-- The Marines and Army were nearly four times more likely to report PTSD than Navy or Air Force because of their greater exposure to combat situations.

-- Enlisted men were twice as likely as officers to report PTSD.

-- 8 percent to 10 percent of active-duty women and retired military women who served in Iraq suffer from PTSD.

Veterans Administration hospitals are seeing more PTSD cases.

At Lexington's VA hospital, 316 veterans with the disorder made 4,550 visits to the outpatient clinic last year, up from 264 veterans who made 3,920 visits in 2002, the year before the war began, said spokeswoman Desti Stimes.

In an article about the suicide of a New Hampshire Air National Guardsman who committed suicide shortly after returning from Iraq some insight is provided about the horror of Iraq convoy operations.

Maj. Chris Hurley, operations officer for the 157th and Guindon's supervisor, was not in Iraq but kept in close contact with the unit. He told police officers that the rules of combat in Iraq are different from those in previous wars. The environment is unpredictable and unimaginably harsh, especially for those involved in convoy operations.

"(Hurley) was saying the Iraqis would actually send children out to blow up truck convoys, so when children were seen in the road, the soldiers were told to actually keep going and run right over them," Hurley's police interview reads, "because if they stopped for the children, as would be the norm, there was a possibility that these children could be armed or wired with explosives."

It was the first time the state's Air Guard members, who tend to specialize in defense tactics, had done anything like it, Hurley said.

One thing to note here: The US Army and Marines are sufficiently short on soldiers that US Air Force National Guardmen are doing convoy guard duties in Iraq. The unit described in this article drove 100,000 miles while in Iraq.

We have better drugs today for treating mental illness. Also, the military makes a greater effort to identify it. But about half of all soldiers avoid complaining either out of pride or in order to avoid being blocked from advancement.

How many soldiers total have served in Iraq so far? 300,000 perhaps? If anyone comes across some numbers please post them in the comments. Also, how many soldiers are being sent to Iraq each year for the first time? Some fraction of each new batch is going to add to the total who will suffer long term mental disorders as a result of their service. Based on the numbers above we could easly end up with 50,000 to 100,000 veterans with various forms of mental illness as a result of their time served in Iraq.

The costs of the mental illnesses resulting from service in Iraq will take forms such as higher rates of divorce, higher rates of abuse of spouses and children, poorer work performance and higher rates of unemployment, institutionalization of severe cases, suicide, murder, and other crimes. We will be paying for the Iraq war for decades to come.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2005 June 28 08:20 PM  Mideast Iraq Costs


Comments
Invisible Scientist said at June 29, 2005 12:18 AM:

Randall Parker:

Since Rumsfeld actually confessed that the involvment in Iraq will almost certainly continue for another 10 years, and since the soldiers are being rotated, the total cumulative number of trauma related mental ilnesses, will probably exceed the 100,000 figure by a large margin. The total number of soldiers floating around in Iraq will probably be far beyond 1,000,000 since these people are rotated and replaced, and the total time will be 10 more years, at least...

Additionally, the "better drugs" that the psychiatrists are prescribing, are merely controlling the symptoms, the damage is not reparable in most cases.

And this is ONLY in a small country with a population of 20 million! In fact, only the Sunni minority is rebelling seriously against the U.S. these days, which is really less than half the population over there... What I am saying is that if the war escalates to other countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran, the United States will not have the manpower to manage it.

Derek Copold said at June 29, 2005 2:39 PM:

Considering the nature of our theraputic and litigious society and the experience of so-called "Gulf War Syndrome", I'd say we'll be hearing about this kind of thing for decades to come.

FriendlyFire said at June 29, 2005 4:27 PM:

"Gulf War Syndrome" is the result of the cocktail of vacines taken mt servuce men in gulf war. Austrlian saliors who served only in the persion gulf have suffered extreme health problems and deaths.

US ground forces also suffered from expoure to delpeted urianum which "areasols on impact".
The figure I remember was 67% of US gulf war verterns who had babies with some kind of problem

Stephen said at June 29, 2005 5:35 PM:

Invisible said "only the Sunni minority is rebelling seriously against the U.S. these days", and that got me to doing some research. It seems that the rebels/insurgents/terrorists (choose your poison) are well represented across religious preference:

SUNNI MAJORITY
Mosul
Kirkuk
Takrit
Fallujah
Ramadi

SHIA MAJORITY
Baghdad (inc Sadr city)
Karbala
Kut
Najaff
Nasiriah

Note that my research isn't in any sense comprehensive - I did a google search on Iraq and wrote down the city names that I recognised (ie assuming I only recognise them because they've been in the news because of fighting). Then I compared the cities against this map to identify ethnicity / religious affiliation.

Also, Invisible limited his comment with 'these days', but I haven't bothered to sort the news reports by date. That said, I'm not sure that would help because the nature of news reporting is to only name the top one or two cities, and not mention any others. Also, in the absence of an actual peace treaty, I think its a bit unsafe to say that a city has stopped rebelling - its more likely that the fighters are simply having a bit of a breather.

Invisible Scientist said at June 29, 2005 6:37 PM:

Stephen:

My apologies. I really meant that right now, the worst violence against the new government and the United States in Iraq, is in the regions formerly dominated by those Sunnis who were loyal to the previous regime of Saddam Hussein, and also the new foreign fighters from other countries who entered Iraq in order to join the fight. The Shia majority, so far is destined to benefit from the democratic rule, due to their numerosity, and this is despite the regions where some Shia militants fought against the US Marines.

But in any case, my point was that in a country with a population of 20 million, the US military machine is not unable to maintain order, and the casualties are are accumulating in such a way that we won't be able to manage this situation. Invading a country is easy, but keeping it occupied is only possible by genocidal systems like the Roman Empire, the Nazi Germany, etc. It is impossible to win a guerilla war without being a homicidal maniac.

Stephen said at June 29, 2005 7:40 PM:

Invisible, no apologies needed. I understood and agreed with your comment - I just got curious about that particular anciliary detail.

Further to the substance of Randall's article, Intel Dump today quotes a Washington Post article:

Veterans Affairs budget documents projected that 23,553 veterans would return this year from Iraq and Afghanistan and seek medical treatment. However, Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson told a Senate committee that the number has been revised upward to 103,000 for the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30. He said the original estimates were based on outdated assumptions from 2002.
crush41 said at July 1, 2005 12:23 AM:

Women soldiers returning from Iraq suffer PTSD at much higher rates than men.

Another victory for feminism?

Susan Hannibal said at July 12, 2005 4:24 PM:

Some cases of PTSD are in fact curable, not merely treatable, which contradicts information on the website of the National Center for PTSD and what therapists and psychiatrists will tell you. Want proof? On my website is a 2-set DVD showing a Navy Corpsman healing (CURING) his PTSD in real time, in only 3 sessions. He spent 8 months in Iraq patching up wounded soldiers and dodging mortars, IED's and snipers. As of this date, July 12, 2005, he has had no recurrence of symptoms since doing guided self-treatment nearly 8 months ago. He had panic attacks, nightmares, isolation, anxiety, anger, irritability, trouble sleeping, and had exaggerated startle response to loud noises, specifically the distinctive whistle of incoming mortars. All of that vanished in less than 2 weeks, with only 3 sessions. Our work together was covered in a March 31, 2005 article by the San Diego Union-Tribune, on my website under "articles."

The technique is part of a new healing paradigm called "energy psychology." To find an EFT practitioner near you go to emofree dot com. There are hundreds of true case histories, and a list of licensed and non-licensed EFT practitioners in nearly every state. EFT can also be done effectively over the phone. Conventional talk-therapy is not effective because it is not possible to reach the part of the brain that holds PTSD, (the Amygdala, seat of fear and emotion in the Limbic system) by talking. Drugs are merely symptom suppression. If you have PTSD symptoms, get help ASAP. Waiting only makes it harder to treat. EFT practitioners are civilians and all work is confidential. Thank you for your service and your sacrifice. Respectfully, Susan

Susan Hannibal said at July 12, 2005 4:26 PM:

The website didn't load, so here it is again, guidedhealing dot com.


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