USA — Services Work to Learn More About Brain Ailments, Suicides

WASHINGTON — Post-trau­mat­ic stress, trau­mat­ic brain injury and sui­cides among ser­vice­mem­bers are inter­re­lat­ed prob­lems requir­ing holis­tic pre­ven­tion meth­ods and more sci­en­tif­ic study, mil­i­tary lead­ers told a Sen­ate pan­el today.

“The real­i­ty is, the study of the brain is an emerg­ing sci­ence, and there still is much to be learned,” Gen. Peter W. Chiarel­li, Army vice chief of staff, told the Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee dur­ing a hear­ing about how the ser­vices are deal­ing with brain injuries and men­tal health problems. 

The vice chiefs of the Navy and Air Force, the Marine Corps’ assis­tant com­man­dant and a Vet­er­ans Affairs Depart­ment health offi­cial also spoke before the com­mit­tee. All agreed with Chiarel­li that the Defense and Vet­er­ans Affairs depart­ments are coor­di­nat­ing bet­ter than ever to diag­nose and treat brain injuries and men­tal dis­or­ders, and that much more is known about such con­di­tions today than when com­bat oper­a­tions began after Sept. 11, 2001. 

Still, they acknowl­edged, much more needs to be done. They not­ed that sui­cides are high­est among ground forces. The Army report­ed 162 con­firmed sui­cides last year, up from 140 in 2008 and 115 in 2007. The Marine Corps report­ed 52 sui­cides last year – more per capi­ta than the Army, and up from 42 in 2008 and 33 in 2007. Last year’s num­bers are expect­ed to rise as more inves­ti­ga­tions are com­plet­ed, they said. 

While the mil­i­tary offi­cers cit­ed increased deploy­ments and less time at home as one area of stress, many more risk indi­ca­tors such as per­son­al prob­lems with rela­tion­ships, legal mat­ters and careers also are fac­tors, they said. 

In the Army, Chiarel­li said, 79 per­cent of sui­cides were by ser­vice­mem­bers who had one or no deploy­ments, and 60 per­cent were on their first deployment. 

Also, Chiarel­li said, sui­cides among active-duty sol­diers have dropped while simul­ta­ne­ous­ly increas­ing among reserve-com­po­nent sol­diers, espe­cial­ly Nation­al Guard mem­bers. The Guard sol­diers require a dif­fer­ent approach toward inter­ven­tion, he said, since no stan­dard­iza­tion exists for ser­vices and treat­ment once they return to their home states. One improve­ment, he said, would be for Guards­men to remain on Tri­care Plus health care cov­er­age for a con­tin­u­um of treatment. 

The senior offi­cers out­lined risk fac­tors for sui­cide among sevice­mem­bers, but only the Marine Corps has seen wide com­mon­al­i­ty in those who took their own lives. Among Marine sui­cides last year, 92 per­cent were between the ages of 17 and 23, and most­ly were white men, Gen. James F. Amos said. He added that 67 per­cent of the Corps is 25 or younger. 

“We are woe­ful­ly more imma­ture in years,” the gen­er­al said. “That, in and of itself, is a problem.” 

Of the 52 sui­cides among Marines last year, nine had nev­er been in com­bat, Amos noted. 

“While there is no sin­gle answer,” he said, “we are com­mit­ted to explor­ing every poten­tial solu­tion and every resource we have avail­able. We will not rest until we turn this around.” 

In the Air Force, only 20 per­cent of sui­cide vic­tims had been deployed in the year before they died, Gen. Car­rol H. Chan­dler told the com­mit­tee. But 70 per­cent of those who com­mit­ted sui­cide were found to have prob­lems in their per­son­al rela­tion­ships, he said, and many had legal problems. 

Sui­cides in the Navy have come from sailors with enough dif­fer­ent demo­graph­ics and risk fac­tors that “our Navy mes­sage is that no one is immune,” Adm. Jonathan W. Green­ert said. 

The offi­cers out­lined the increas­ing­ly num­ber of pro­grams the ser­vices have adopt­ed to try to curb sui­cides. They include train­ing that begins in boot camp, focus­es heav­i­ly on non­com­mis­sioned offi­cers, and extends to senior flag offi­cers; increas­ing pre- and post-deploy­ment eval­u­a­tions; embed­ding men­tal health work­ers in deployed units; reach­ing out to fam­i­lies with train­ing and tele­phone hot­lines; and try­ing to improve the diag­no­sis and treat­ment of TBI and post-trau­mat­ic stress disorder. 

And the ser­vices increas­ing­ly are extend­ing pro­grams to build resilience in mil­i­tary mem­bers and their fam­i­lies to cope with what­ev­er stress­es might arise, the mil­i­tary offi­cers told the committee. 

Chiarel­li said it is impor­tant to rec­og­nize the con­nec­tion between TBI and PTSD and the high rate of “co-mor­bid­i­ty,” or co-exist­ing con­di­tions in an indi­vid­ual. That, cou­pled with a lack of med­ical under­stand­ing about the dis­or­ders, and the dif­fer­ing drugs to treat them and prob­lems like anx­i­ety and depres­sion, com­pli­cates diag­no­sis and treat­ment, he said. 

“There is no doubt that you can go to any of our posts and find sol­diers strug­gling because [doc­tors] can’t nail down and diag­nose their con­di­tions,” he said. “But I promise you it is not from lack of try­ing. We are doing every­thing we can. 

“Our sci­ence on the brain is just not as great as it is on oth­er parts of the body,” Chiarel­li con­tin­ued, not­ing vast med­ical opin­ions about diag­nos­ing and treat­ing the dis­or­ders. “It’s not this well-devel­oped sci­ence like you find with heart surgery.” 

Of the Army’s most severe­ly wound­ed sol­diers – those at least 30 per­cent dis­abled – at least 60 per­cent are diag­nosed with PTSD or TBI, Chiarel­li said. 

There still is no con­clu­sive test to diag­nose TBI, Dr. Robert L. Jesse, a physi­cian and act­ing prin­ci­pal deputy under­sec­re­tary of health for VA’s Vet­er­ans Health Admin­is­tra­tion, told the com­mit­tee. “It may just be the com­plex­i­ty of this dis­ease that it takes time to man­i­fest in ways we can diag­nose,” he said. 

Source:
U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

Team GlobDef

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist GlobalDefence.net im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. GlobalDefence.net war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →