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US soldiers with mental problems kept in Iraq: report

Some troops who developed post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in Iraq are being sent back to the war zone, increasing the risk to their mental health, the report said.
by Staff Writers
New York, (AFP) May 14, 2006
Despite a congressional order that the US military assess the mental health of all deploying troops, fewer than one in 300 service members see a mental health professional before shipping out to Iraq, The Hartford Courant reported Sunday.

The Connecticut newspaper said its investigation has found that once at war, some unstable troops are kept on the front lines while on potent antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs, with little or no counseling or medical monitoring.

Some troops who developed post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in Iraq are being sent back to the war zone, increasing the risk to their mental health, the report said.

The suicide rate among troops serving in Iraq reached an all-time high in 2005 when 22 soldiers killed themselves - accounting for nearly one in five of all army non-combat deaths.

The investigation found that at least 11 service members who committed suicide in Iraq in 2004 and 2005 were kept on duty despite exhibiting signs of significant psychological distress, the paper said.

In at least seven of the cases, superiors were aware of the problems.

Also, at least three soldiers who have killed themselves since the war began were deployed despite serious mental conditions, including bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, the newspaper said.

To keep troops with known psychological problems in the war zone, the military relies increasingly on antidepressants, some with potentially dangerous side effects, The Courant said.

The paper said that military investigative reports and interviews with family members indicate that some service members who committed suicide in 2004 and 2005 were kept on duty despite clear signs of mental distress, sometimes after being prescribed antidepressants, including a class of drugs known as SSRIs.

In one case, a 26-year-old Marine who was having trouble sleeping was put on a strong dose of Zoloft, an SSRI that carries a warning urging doctors to closely monitor new patients for suicidal urges, the report said.

Last April, within two months of starting the drug, the Marine killed himself in Iraq, The Courant pointed out.

Related Links

Iraqs Nightmare Reality
Amman, Jordan (UPI) May 15, 2006
If the old saying that things need to get worse before they get better applies to Iraq, it's hard to imagine how much worse it can possibly get before that country returns to minimum normality.







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