Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Military Mental Health

The complexities of providing mental health services to soldiers was suggested by the recent case of the soldier who shot and killed five of his fellow soldiers at a military mental health center in Iraq. Although he managed to find a gun to use, it seems that his commanding officer was alert to his problems. He had the soldier turn in his gun and referred him for counseling. But that apparently isn't the way the soldier experienced it. In an interview, the soldier''s father said that his his son had recently angered a commanding officer, who had "threatened"  him. When the officer ordered the soldier to undergo counseling and relinquish his weapon--a major rebuke in the military-- he became nervous that the Army was "setting him" up to be discharged. Having recently built a new home, he was deeply anxious that he could loose not only his steady paycheck but also his military pension, his father said.“If a guy actually goes to the clinic and asks for help, they think of him as a wimp and he’s got something wrong with him and try to get rid of him,” Mr. Russell said. “Well, he didn’t go and ask voluntarily for help. They scheduled him in, and they set him up. They drove him out. They wanted to put as much pressure on him as they could to drum him out.”

He added: “I think they broke him.”

A General in charge of the soldier's unit, however, said that, “The tools were all being used. They thought that he needed a higher level of care than the unit could provide, so they sent him to the clinic. I mean, you see, all the kind of things that we’re taught to do were in place.”

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