Iraq and Afghanistan war vets get uneven psychiatric help, a top federal researcher says.
The number of suicides among veterans of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may exceed the combat death toll because of inadequate mental health care, the government's top psychiatric researcher said.
Community mental health centers, hobbled by financial limits, haven't provided enough scientifically sound care, especially in rural areas, said Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Md. He briefed reporters at the American Psychiatric Association's annual meeting in Washington.
Insel echoed a Rand Corp. study published last month that found about 20% of returning U.S. soldiers have post-traumatic stress disorder or depression, and only half of them receive treatment. About 1.6 million U.S. troops have fought in two wars since October 2001, the report said.
Poor care may drive GI's suicides above combat toll.
Suicides from Al - not copied verbatim...as to date written. AFP contributed to this report.
About 4,560 soldiers had died in the conflicts as of yesterday, the defense Department reported on its Web Site.
Based on those figures and established suicide rates for similar patients who commonly develop substance abuse and other complications of post-traumatic stress disorder, "It's quite possible that the suicides and psychiatric mortality of this war could trump the combat deaths, " said Insel.
Post Traumatic stress disorder , known as PTSD, is the failure to cope after a major shock, such as an auto accident, a rape or combat, Insel said. PTSD, may remain dormant for months or years before it surfaces, and in about 10% of cases people never recover, he said. "We don't yet know how to predict who is going to be the person to be most concerned about, " Insel said.
The Pentagon didn't dispute Insel's remark.
The Department takes the issue of suicide very seriously, and one suicide is too many," said spokeswomen Cynthia Smith in an e-mail. Soldiers who'd been exposed to combat trauma were the most likely to suffer from depression or PTSD, the Rand report said. About 53% percent of soldiers with those conditions sought treatment during the past year. Half of those who got care were judged by Rand researchers to have received inadequate treatment.
"It's predicted most soldiers - 70% - will not seek treatment through the DOD or VA, " Insel said at the meeting, at which the psychological impact of war is expected to top the agenda over the next four days.
Left untreated, PTSD and depression can lead to substance abuse, alcoholism or other life threatening behaviors.
"It's a gathering storm for the civilian and public health care sectors," said Insel.