Attitudes on Mental Health in the Armed Forces Evolving

The requirements that Armed Forces troops face require a stony edge and a toughness that keep them alive while protecting others in extreme circumstances. But the Army is also keeping up with the times, and the times are calling for attention to these battle-hardened vets who come back with mental issues that boot camp could never prepare them for.

Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is as common a term as K-ration these days as thousands upon thousands of troops return from the battlefront to their homes. The transition is hard, too hard for some – suicide rates among veterans are higher now than ever, and PTSD is increasing at a rapid rate.

The Army surgeon general is backing the development of a treatment regimen that will bring a decade’s worth of troops out of the mental danger zone. In too many cases, troops that showed signs that everything wasn’t OK were returned to situations that they weren’t capable of handling.  Progress had been made in the treatment of PTSD among troops. Still, getting help to the most needed areas, such as the combat zone where soldiers are under constant stress and health professionals can’t always gain access, sometimes impedes these efforts.

The Army’s surgeon general said last year that all of the branches of service subscribe to a standard method to diagnose PTSD. The standard is the same used by civilian health specialists. The Army knows now that PTSD can have long-lasting effects, and is taking more advice from healthcare professionals.

Getting the message to commanders who are in desperate need of troops has been an issue. There have been some reports where medical records have been changed to allow a soldier back into the war zone, or a commanding officer who has been told a soldier is not fit for duty, but pulls him back out to the forward operating base regardless. Without proper treatment, these soldiers are being put back in situations that have a lasting impact on their mental health.