It’s difficult to imagine a more stressful situation than that presented by military combat. And this stress has exacted a mental and emotional toll from U.S. service men and women since the country’s inception. During the Civil War, it was called “nostalgia.” In the world wars of the 20th century, it was called “shell-shock” or the “thousand-yard stare.”
Today, we call it post-traumatic stress disorder. And while we know more about it than ever before—and have more and more effective treatments available—it remains a frustratingly pervasive problem. One of the reasons why? The stresses of today’s battlefield are extremely intense—with no defined frontline and the inability to distinguish the good guys from the bad, our soldiers are constantly on edge.
Those concerned with military mental health were recently dealt a severe blow when it was learned that an estimated 32 active-duty military and reservists committed suicide in July alone. This is devastating news and the highest monthly suicide rate ever recorded.
The military is—and has been—working hard to reduce the incidence of military suicide and to more effectively treat, or prevent, PTSD, traumatic brain injury, and the litany of other mental health issues our service men and women face.
Recently, I had the privilege of interviewing Dr. James Bender of the Department of Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury. Extremely engaging and articulate, Dr. Bender remains optimistic for the future of military mental health care, with the development of technology-based treatments, a large-scale education effort, and the hiring of many more treatment providers.
The resulting article covers these issues and a variety of other topics of interest to soldiers and mental health care providers alike. You can read it here.