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EXCLUSIVE: Killings spur Army review of mental care
Most patients go to the clinics of their own volition, but some are sent by their commanding officers.
“It’s hard to say which are the top two concerns,” he said. “Common concerns are home relationships, marital problems; other times it may be related to work, conflict in the office or what they have observed in battle. It’s not uncommon to see a range of [issues]: depression to anxiety as well as anger.”
Military commands in Iraq, from platoons to divisions, stress the “battle buddy” system to help spot soldiers having emotional problems and to help steer them to medical help.
Public service announcements dealing with issues such as suicide appear on television in the dining halls and in the morale, welfare and recreation halls.
Troops are also given videos on how to spot soldiers having problems such as depression.
An Army report released earlier this year indicated the suicide rate among U.S. soldiers worldwide had surpassed that in civilian society.
It stood at 20.2 per 100,000 people in 2008 compared with the civilian rate of 19.2 in 2006, the latest year for which civilian figures were available. Officials said a high operational tempo, including 15-month deployments to Iraq at that time, was a factor.
With combat in Iraq now at a low point and U.S. forces taking a secondary, supporting role to Iraqi forces, boredom could become a morale issue for some soldiers when not in the field.
“Obviously you have to concern yourself with boredom, but we keep them very busy here - spiritually, mentally and physically - and not just on operations,” said Col. Burt Thompson, commander of the 1st SBCT, 25th Infantry Division, based near Baqouba. “We just have to take care of each other.”
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