Saturday, November 07, 2009

 

Complaint of the Day: I lost my mind

The amputees get the great treatment. Purple Hearts, money for losing their limbs. I have a lot of respect for them. But I lost my mind, and I couldn't even get a simple "thank you for your service." —Pfc Sophia Taylor as quoted by Anne Hull and Dana Priest in "At Walter Reed, a palpable strain on mental-health system"

The massacre at Ft. Hood, Texas, perpetrated by Army psychiatrist Nidal Malik Hassan, will reawaken interest in the psychological treatment of veterans for a while. But only for a while.

The Post reporters note that—

More than two years after the nation's political and military leaders pledged to improve mental-health care, their promises have fallen short at military hospitals around the country, according to mental-health professionals, Army officials, and wounded soldiers and their families. Those hospitals include Walter Reed, where the man accused of the Fort Hood shootings, Nidal M. Hasan, spent four years as a psychiatric intern, resident and fellow.

What may have happened to Hasan during those four years is one of the things being investigated. But it isn't only Walter Reed that is under fresh scrutiny: Evidence of an undermanned, overworked health-care system stretches all the way to the Pentagon, where all of the top health-policy positions remain unfilled, leaving a void on an issue long fraught with inefficiencies and entrenched bureaucracies.

The truth is that this nation—or any nation—cannot create so many emotional casualties as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq will inevitably produce and then offer effective treatment after the fact.

In the first place "effective treatment" for PTSD and other emotional sequelae of war is quite limited in its effectiveness and demands enormous resources in terms of trained personnel, not to mention money.

From this account in the NY Times of Hassan's path to becoming a psychiatrist, I can only conclude that the Army assigned and paid for his career not because of any aptitude he might have had (apparently he had little) but because of its desperate need for psychiatrists—

Paul M. Holt III, a private investigator who went to high school with Major Hasan...., like many others, described Major Hasan as having few friends and being quiet to the point of introversion. “He wasn’t very personable,” Mr. Holt said. “I can’t imagine him sitting and listening to people’s problems.”

After graduating with a degree in biochemistry from Virginia Tech, in nearby Blacksburg, he was commissioned as an officer and sent to medical school at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, where he graduated in 2003. He did his internship and residency at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington before entering a two-year fellowship that gave him a master’s degree in public health and trained him in disaster psychiatry.

Two students in the fellowship program said Major Hasan had sat alone in the front of the class and rarely socialized with other students, other than to debate the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He made clear he strongly opposed both, the former students said.

The government has a difficult time owning up to the cost of these wars in lives and limbs but assuages the public, as Pfc Taylor says, with Purple Hearts and money. If the loss of minds comes into the public conscience, what medal will the government award and how much money must it pay?

Related posts
Statistic of the Day: Veteran suicides (11/15/07)
Military Cover-up of the Day (11/27/07)

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