IN OTHER WORDS
The Department of Veterans Affairs is struggling to cope with a task for which it was tragically unready: the care of soldiers who left Afghanistan and Iraq with an extra burden of brain injury and psychic anguish. The last thing they need is the blend of secrecy and heedlessness that helped to send many of them into harm’s way.
“Shh!” said the e-mail in February from Dr. Ira Katz, head of mental health services for Veterans Affairs, to a colleague. “Our suicide prevention coordinators are identifying about 1,000 suicide attempts per month among the veterans we see in our medical facilities. Is this something we should address ourselves in some sort of release before someone stumbles on it?”
A study by Rand Corp. last month found that nearly one in five service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, or about 300,000, have symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. About 19 per cent reported having a possible traumatic brain injury. Only half have sought treatment and they have encountered severe delays in getting care. Fortunately, the solutions are clear: more money for mental health services and more aggressive preventive efforts. If the United States gave back to wounded troops even a fraction of the commitment and service that it has received from them, they will be well cared for. — International Herald Tribune