Veterans Mental Health Issues Have Many Consequences
A new Department of Defense report shows the number of suicides last month among active duty military at an all-time high. New England Public Radio's Helen Barrington reports.
Despite efforts to improve treatment for mental health problems such as PTSD among soldiers, the latest data show that, so far, efforts aren't staving off the number of suicides and suicide attempts. Among active duty soldiers in July, 26 deaths are being treated as suicides, and among reservists, the Department of Defense reports twelve cases.
At the same time, the veteran population is struggling with similar problems at home. In his new book, "Veterans on Trial: The Coming Court Battles over PTSD," recently retired Connecticut Supreme Court Justice Barry Schaller says he's seen a growing number of criminal and civil cases stemming from PTSD. All of which, Schaller says, is forcing more people in and out of the military to acknowledge the fallout from war.
Schaller says, "it seems to me that it's reached a pretty good level of acceptance in our society that there are mental health consequences of war."
Schaller says political leaders and the Department of Veterans Affairs need to take more responsibility when assisting soldiers who have become entangled in the court system because they're suffering from mental health issues resulting from military service.
He says, "when veterans are already having domestic trouble, criminal trouble, it's really too late, we have to be really careful not to sort of say, 'it's ok, you don't have to deal with it, we'll deal with it' when they get into court."
Schaller says many states are setting up so called veteran's courts, aiming to better serve those who've been in the military. and, he says, with more soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan -- combined with continuing mental health concerns among active duty service personnel -- the need for such courts is likely to continue. For New England Public Radio, I'm Helen Barrington.