Soldiers Leave Army Due to Mental Disorders

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Statistics are showing that the number of soldiers forced to leave the Army solely because of a mental disorder has increased by 64% from 2005 to 2009 and accounts for one in nine medical discharges, according to Army statistics.

Last year a Pentagon analysis stated that for the first time in 15 years, more soldiers went to the hospital for mental illnesses than anything else, including battle wounds. There were 1224 soldiers who left the military with mental illnesses, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, last year. The number was an increase from 745 in 2005.

"These numbers really just validate the mental health communities' concern about multiple deployments," says Adrian Atizado, who specializes in health issues as assistant national legislative director for Disabled American Veterans. "Mind and body are both taking a beating."

Soldiers discharged for having both a mental and a physical disability increased 174% during the past five years from 1,397 in 2005 to 3,831 in 2009, according to the statistics.

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Army Lt. Col. Rebecca Porter, an Army behavioral health official, says research shows a clear relationship between multiple deployments and increased symptoms of anxiety, depression and PTSD.

"We have 100,000 troops and a third of them suffer some sort of mental health disease and half of those suffer multiple health disease," said Paul Martin from Peace Action.

"The military is excellent at treating visible wounds," says Joe Davis, a spokesman for Veterans of Foreign Wars. "The military and entire medical community at large still have a long way to go to effectively and reliably screen and treat wounds to the head and mind. Before discharging troops for behavioral reasons, it is absolutely imperative that commanders first ask 'What caused this?”

According to Mental health experts there is a growing emotional toll on the US military which has been fighting for seven years in Iraq and nine years in Afghanistan, and there is a clear relationship between multiple deployments and increased symptoms of anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.

Some experts say age is also a factor. "We are talking young people 18 to 24-year-olds, who are seeing the horrors of war," Martin said.

As of June 30, there were still 82,000 U.S. military personnel in Iraq. American troop levels in Afghanistan are at 95,000 and growing. Many of the men and women in uniform have deployed to war zones two, three and more times since Sept. 11, 2001.

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