Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Reservists Need Extra Mental Health Help

More than 2 million U.S. troops have served in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last decade, and about one third (665,000) were from Reserve or National Guard units. “[T]hese service members report higher rates of mental health problems and related ills than active-duty troops, according to current and former officials, troops, experts, and government studies,” said a report from the Medill National Security Reporting Project team, which spent three months looking at the challenges facing these forces.

National Guard and Reserve personnel often lack many of the supports of their active duty counterparts. Their units may come together for training just once a month. Access to medical and mental health care through the Military Health System or the Veterans Administration may be distant or otherwise difficult to obtain. They may rely on civilian practitioners who have little knowledge of the military experience. So last April, the Army National Guard increased demobilization time and required leaders to sign off on the status of each soldier.

In recent congressional testimony, Gen. Craig McKinley, head of the Pentagon’s National Guard Bureau, praised the guard’s reform efforts. However, he said, “we will have decades to go to make sure we do not leave any guardsman or woman behind.”

For more in Psychiatric News about efforts to help returning troops and their families, click here.
(Image: Oleg Zabielin/


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