Pentagon is treating troops for PTSD

By Megan McCloskey, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Monday, September 14, 2009

WASHINGTON — With an estimated 20 percent of U.S. servicemembers returning from war zones suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, a burgeoning suicide rate in the ranks and occasional murder or other extreme outbursts of violence, the Pentagon is scrambling to grapple with the mounting psychological fallout from America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.   Combat stress clinics have been set up near the front lines. Troops in training are learning how to gird themselves against mental troubles. Officers are required to watch for signs of suicide risks among their subordinates.   But in a vast military organization obsessed with metrics and measuring every aspect of its performance, experts say there is one glaring gap: The Pentagon has no system in place to evaluate whether its downrange crisis interventions are actually working.  At the stress clinics, or “restoration centers” as the military calls them, servicemembers experiencing acute mental trauma can get a few days’ respite away from the war and consult with nurses, psychologists and psychiatrists. The only outcome the Army measures is what percentage of soldiers are able to quickly return to the front lines: 97 percent.   “[Downrange] the mental health professional’s primary mission is to get people back to duty,” said Dr. Mardi Horowitz, a psychiatrist and PTSD authority who helped define the disorder in the 1970s. “It’s not an individual’s health.”


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