Just Released: Parity for Patriots: The Mental Health Needs of Military Personnel, Veterans and their Families
New report calls for Purple Heart medals to be awarded for psychological wounds like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and for military commanders at all levels to be accountable for suicide prevention and elimination of stigma.
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Here is an excerpt from the new publication:
The long wars are winding down and the troops are coming home, but thousands of military service members, veterans and their families must tend to the psychological wounds of battle for years to come. Mental health disorders, signature injuries of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, affect one in five active duty service members and are the most common cause of hospitalization.
Spouses and children, particularly among the National Guard and Reserves, develop mental health conditions at about the same rate as service members yet many have scant health care coverage and scarce access to military-informed care.
Too often, once a war is over, the mental health needs of those who have served are forgotten. They struggle with stigmatizing attitudes that surround mental health care and must navigate as many as four disjointed health care systems.
- “He just said he thinks he should walk out into traffic on Interstate 5 and end it all. That life is not worth living.” -- 911 Call Center Counselor
As a nation, we can learn from the past. Investment in the mental health of the active duty military, veterans and their families is integral to the cost of war. Early identification and military-informed care, specifically tailored to war experiences, can successfully return those who have served to full civilian life—and prevent escalating long-term costs of untreated mental disorders.
Federal and state leaders need to ensure mental health parity for warriors and their families so that they can access services when and where they are needed.
Our Armed Forces
The active duty military is about 2.2 million at any one time with the National Guard, at 800,000 strong, representing over one-third of the force. Twenty-three thousand troops will come home by the end of August, of the 91,000 troops deployed in Afghanistan as of April, 2012. The 68,000 who remain will gradually return through December, 2014.
While resilience and self-sufficiency are woven through military culture, the weight of repeated deployments has fallen heavily on the estimated three million spouses and children who support Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. Today’s service members are more likely to have families than veterans from previous eras. Over half (56 percent) of today’s active duty military are married, 17 percent are women and 44 percent have children. Care for children is an especially critical concern for 76,000 service members who are active duty single parents and 41,000 who are dual military parents.