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Military personnel more prone to mental illness than civilians

Military personnel more prone to mental illness than civilians

03 January | 0 Comments | By Rachael

In military service, a person is expected to be on duty 24 hours a day. A soldier does not have the freedom to ‘call it a day’ or the option to select one’s preferred shift window, the line of duty or posting/location. Moreover, military life is governed by stringent rules and regulations.

Driven by a high sense of duty, soldiers are supposed to fulfill their obligations toward their comrades and nation in all circumstances. Irrespective of the situation, whether peace or war, a soldier has to accept his or her assignment without any questions.

Moreover, they experience the long periods of absence from their family due to a number of deployments and missions. Being posted in extremely dangerous and risky places, there is always a threat to their life. Besides the increased risk of death, the exposure to violence and destruction heightens the chance of experiencing severe injuries both physically and mentally.

Due to various traumatic experiences, a soldier stands the risk of getting affected for life. Considering the tough exterior image of a soldier, their immense mental suffering often goes unacknowledged by the outside world.

Experiences like roadside blasts of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), being attacked at close range by machine guns or grenades or from long range by rockets or mortars and seeing people (be it friend, foe or civilian) killed (either shot or blown up) in front of their very eyes take a severe toll on a soldier’s mental health. In fact, mental illness is a more prevalent problem than physical injuries among soldiers.

Traumatic experiences increase prevalence of mental illness among veterans

For many military veterans, transition from military service to civilian life is less than smooth. In fact, their mental problems tend to get more pronounced due to their inability to cope with the symptoms of major depressive disorder (MDD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Due to their horrifying experiences, mental disorders are more prevalent among military personnel compared to civilians. Yet, according to a 2014 study, only 23-40 percent of both active and veteran military personnel who met the stringent criteria of mental illness in 2004 had received professional treatment in the past year.

It also found that the risk of psychiatric disorders, especially MDD, bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), PTSD and intermittent explosive disorder (IED) are directly equivalent to the number of deployments. Those suffering from PTSD and MDD are frequently found to have other co-occurring psychiatric disorders.

Additionally, they run an increased risk of death from injury, homicide, cardiovascular diseases and suicide. This is further compounded by a range of socioeconomic problems, such as the increased risk of substance abuse, reduced employment and work productivity, marital discord and family dysfunction, homelessness, etc. The male veterans have been found to be twice at risk of dying from suicide than their civilian counterparts as suicides climbed to 22 per day in 2010.

Need for alternative forms of therapy

The above-mentioned problems were vociferously highlighted by a 38-year-old Sgt. 1st Class Brian Mancini, who took his own life to end the challenges of mental pain caused by the brain injury witnessed in the battlefield. A double Purple Heart recipient, he was posthumously inducted in the Arizona Military Hall of Fame Society.

He strongly advocated for the rights of the military veterans after going through the immense pain of losing his right eye, skull fractures and brain damage due to the explosion of a roadside bomb. While going through the dark time of extreme frustration and despondency, he founded a nonprofit organization the Honor House in his hometown. The organization offered alternative experiential therapies like yoga, Tai Chi, acupuncture, etc. to veterans. The primary objective of the organization was to highlight the possibility of a life beyond pills. The entire disheartening episode of Mancini has played a key role in highlighting the impact of traumatic experiences on both active and veteran military personnel.

If you or your loved one is showing the symptoms of any mental disorder, contact the Arizona Mental Health Helpline to access the mental health treatment centers in Arizona where qualified medical representatives can decide on a treatment plan that best suits your needs. You can call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-606-7791 or chat with our representatives to know more about the mental health disorder treatment centers in Arizona.