Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Shrunken Heads

A week before Army Gen. David Petraeus updates Congress on the war in Iraq, two new studies have found that soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan are suffering from especially high rates of post-combat psychological problems, exacerbated by an unusually high rate of repeat deployments.

Veterans for America’s (VFA) Wounded Warrior Outreach Program is concerned with the staggeringly high levels of mental health problems and neurological injuries experienced by today’s troops, and the lack of resources and rehabilitative programs available for our wounded.

Okay, let's imagine you're a U.S. Army psychiatrist.

Oh, so they attack your base with mortars every night? How does that make you feel?

Mmhmm, difficulty sleeping, I see.

Whenever you go out they what? Try to kill you with bombs, machine guns, and rocket propelled grenades? So do you think people are out to get you?

And how does that make you feel?

Anxious, afraid? Ah hah. Angry?

Well you know that's irrational, President Bush isn't shooting at you. And what else is bothering you?

You don't like shooting people. Well, we all have a job to do, it isn't always pleasant . . .

You're afraid of shooting the wrong people? What's that? Ten years old? Well now nobody's perfect, we all make mistakes. You musn't be too hard on yourself, I've made a few mistakes in my job now and again, but you just have to pick yourself up and keep on going.

Oh yes, well I'm sure I wouldn't like seeing my friends with their legs blown off or their brains spilling out either, it's only natural to be disturbed by those things.

Now, I know that people often don't like to hear themselves labeled with a psychiatric diagnosis, but it's very helpful in understanding and confronting the problem and giving us an idea of what to do about it. You appear to have a depressive disorder complicated by anxiety. I'm going to give you a prescription for Zoloft, which will make you feel less depressed, and Xanax, which will help with your anxiety. In a little while, I'm sure you'll get better.

Of course, I might have a different diagnosis of the problem, and a different prescription, but that wouldn't work very well in terms of the army mission.

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