Showing posts with label PTSD and suicide. Show all posts
Showing posts with label PTSD and suicide. Show all posts

Saturday, January 26, 2019

It's running silent and angry and deep

When service turns into suffering

Combat PTSD Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
January 26, 2019

Why do people decide that they are willing to take jobs that could cost them their lives? Did they just wake up one morning and think, "I'd die for that chance?"

Whenever it happened, whenever they went to begin training for the jobs dedicated to saving lives, or defending a nation, that is exactly what they decided was worth it.

Now, all of us can understand when what they try to save us from, changes everything for us. So why can't we understand what all the times they do it, does to them?

How oblivious are we? How self-centered are we when we ignore what those jobs are doing to them? We get PTSD from one traumatic event. They get PTSD from far too many of them. Then they have this twisted thought that they were supposed to be better, stronger, and beyond reach of the residual demon of destruction.

More to the point is, how oblivious are the leaders of the men and women suffering, that they do not see their jobs cause more deaths than doing the job itself?

More in the military die as a result of suicide than die doing their jobs.

More die in the National Guard and Reserves to suicide than die doing their jobs.

More Police Officers dies to suicide than dies doing their jobs.

More Firefighters die to suicide than die doing their jobs.

According to the CDC, suicides in America have continued to increase. While some want to suggest that since it has happened to everyone else, then, it is just the way things are. As pathetic as that thought is, what they do not acknowledge is fueling the loss of lives.

These men and women decided that saving lives was worth dying for...but their own life was not worth fighting for anymore.

Why? Who gave them that impression? Who allowed the thought to penetrate their brains that they were supposed to just suffer silently instead of turning to all the others they served with to help save their own lives?

Would they do whatever they could to save one of their own?

The pain is running silent, angry and deep. It is time to look in their eyes and tell them that it is time to #BreakTheSilence and #TakeBackYourLife because this time, the life needing saving is yours!

Barry Manilow - Read 'em And Weep
I've been tryin for hour just to think of what exactly to say
I thought I leave you with a letter or a fiery speech
Like when an actor makes an exit at the end of a play
And I've been dying for hours trying to fill up all the holes with some sense
I like to know why you gave up and threw it away
I like to give you all the reasons and what everything meant
Well, I can tell you goodbye or maybe see you around
With just a touch of sarcastic thanks
We started out with a bang
And at the top of the world
Now the guns are exhausted
And the bullets are blanks
And everything's blank
If I could only find the words
Then I would write it all down
If I could only find the voice
I would speak
Oh its there in my eyes
Oh can't you see me tonight
Come on and look at me
And read 'em and weep
If I could only find the words
Then I would write it all down
If I could only find the voice
I would speak
Oh its there in my eyes
Oh can't you see me tonight
Come on and look at me
And read 'em and weep
I've been whispering softly
Trying to build a cry up to a scream
We let the past slip away
And put the future on hold
Now the present is nothing but a hollowed out dream
And I've been dreaming forever
Hoping something would eventually come
I saw your eyes in the dark
I felt your kiss on my lips
I traced your body in the air
'Til the bodies were numb
Well, I could tell you goodbye
Or maybe see you around
With just a touch of a sarcastic thanks
But now the rooms are all empty
The candles are dark
The guns are exhausted
And the bullets are blank
And everything is blank
Oh it's there in my eyes
And coming straight from my heart

It's running silent and angry and deep

Oh it's there in my eyes
And it's all I can say
Come on and look at me
And read 'em and weep
Songwriters: Jim Steinman
Read 'Em and Weep lyrics © Carlin America Inc

Friday, December 29, 2017

Firefighters Helping Others Help Themselves Heal PTSD

Firefighters who’ve developed PTSD helping others learn to help themselves
Washington Post
Lynh Bui
December 28, 2017
“We’re showing up at everybody’s worst day, in a lot of cases. It’s not just part of our job — we want to do it. But how can we get to retirement and have a life after the fire service that’s not traumatized by what we did?”
Patrick Morrison

“You don’t come out perfect,” Eric Fessenden said, but you learn how to cope. A former Montgomery County firefighter, Fessenden attended the nation’s only in-patient facility designed to treat firefighters with PTSD. (Doug Kapustin/For The Washington Post)

After a 24-year career in the fire service, Eric Fessenden has a memory bank of the grisly calls he answered. He’s pulled bloated bodies out of rivers, treated victims of the D.C.-area Beltway Sniper attacks, and extracted the dead and the mangled from car wrecks.

Staying busy at work allowed the Montgomery County firefighter to put aside the emotional burdens of his job, but after an injury forced him to retire, he often found himself inexplicably anxious and angry. He woke up shaking in the middle of the night soaked in sweat. And the hikes he looked forward to each week with family members would end miserably when he inevitably snapped at them during the outings.

Fessenden, 48, thought that he suffered from post-traumatic stress. It wasn’t until recently he learned it was that — and more.
First responders witness trauma not only from everyday events such as car crashes and house fires, said Patrick Morrison, assistant general president for health, safety and medicine of the International Association of Fire ­Fighters. They’re also answering extraordinarily difficult mass-casualty calls, such as the Mandalay Bay shooting that killed 58 in Las Vegas, the Ghost Ship warehouse fire that killed 36 in Oakland, Calif., and devastating natural disasters such as Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.
read more here

Friday, July 7, 2017

Vermont First Responders Mental Health Bill Leads in PTSD Help

First Responders Celebrate Passing of Mental Health Bill 
My Champlain 
By: Rebecca Reese 
Posted: Jul 06, 2017
Burlington, Vt. - Firefighters and lawmakers came together to recognize the passing of a bill that will cover mental health under worker's compensation for first responders Thursday morning.
International Association of Fire Firefighters Vice President John 'Jay' Colbert explained that from witnessing horrific emergencies and enduing extreme stress, first responders are two times more likely to develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He said those with PTSD are six times more likely to commit suicide.
"This truly is a historic day," Colbert said. "On behalf of the 304,000 firefighters across the United States and Canada I want to commend the people, the legislators and the emergency responders in the state of Vermont for leading the way."
Vermont is the first state in the country to pass legislation to treat mental health injuries as any other injury for first responders.
go here to watch video and let them know you support this!

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Missouri Firefighter’s Suicide Highlights PTSD

Missouri Firefighter’s Suicide Highlights PTSD 
Death of firefighter raises attention towards awareness and treatment 02/23/2017
ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - Beth McMullin never imagined that someday, she would be married to a firefighter.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Doctor Gave Up On Sex Abuse Victim with PTSD and Let Her Pick Death?

There are times when I read a story and think that it cannot be true. That is what happened with the story of a woman being allowed to choose euthanasia because she had PTSD. It could be a false story but what if it isn't?
Sex abuse victim in her twenties allowed euthanasia as mental health problems ‘INCURABLE’
Express UK
PUBLISHED: 08:43, Wed, May 11, 2016

A WOMAN who was sexually abused as a child has successfully applied for euthanasia as she could not live with her mental suffering.

The victim was given a lethal injection after health professionals decided her post-traumatic stress disorder and other conditions were incurable.

Her condition included severe anorexia, chronic depression and suicidal mood swings, tendencies to self-harm, hallucinations, obsessions and compulsions.

Although the Dutch victim showed improvements after intensive therapy, she was given the right to die after doctors said treatment was hopeless.
read more here

There is no "cure" for PTSD but that does not mean there isn't healing and often, coming out of the dark to live a better quality of life. That is if folks get the proper care. If something doesn't work, then try something else. It isn't as if the answer to healing does not exist. It just means she didn't find what could have worked for her.

After surviving what she went through, how could it have been worse trying to heal? How did the medical community give up on her and just allow her to die instead of making sure they tried absolutely everything there is to help her live? They have been working on PTSD for over 40 years and most survivors of trauma, no matter what the cause, survive questionable care until they do in fact find what they need.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The event didn't kill them, the trauma did

The event didn't kill them, the trauma did
Wounded Times
Kathie Costos
August 20, 2013

When the hell are they going to get what PTSD is? When will they stop wasting money on studies for rats and now of all things, worms? The headline says that Worms may help uncover secrets to chronic stress in humans

Every thing on the planet is changed by traumatic events. Wildfires are a traumatic event but they don't study the remains of a burnt tree to figure out how a veteran is changed when his skin is burnt off by an IED. Elephants show signs of grief along with other species when one of their own is shot and killed but they don't study them to understand how a soldier is changed by watching one of his friends killed by a sniper's bullet. Why? Because reputable researchers know there a huge difference between humans and animals but jerks can't understand the difference between worms and humans.

People grieve. That is the first obvious clue. People also think, remember and try to sort things out. The emotional price paid comes with the different events (causes) and outcomes.

Great researchers point out the different levels of PTSD as well as the need to treat survivors depending on the nature of the source of the trauma topped off with the times they were involved with threats to their lives.

There is what chemically happens but until they fully understand what emotionally happens to survivors, they will keep seeing more and more kill themselves. I doubt worms commit suicide. We know people do.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

We are Killing Ourselves Through Suicide

Ontario plan to help first responders deal with PTSD
February 1, 2016
TORONTO - Ontario is launching a plan to help first responders deal with the impact of post traumatic stress disorder, which the government calls a serious and debilitating injury.

Labour Minister Kevin Flynn says the stress and danger faced by police, firefighters and paramedics can have a lasting and serious effect not only on their physical health, but their mental health as well.

And this is why it happened. Change came after Shannon Pennington wrote the following.

There are many people working on PTSD. I focus on the troops and veterans but there are others also focusing on other responders. Shannon Pennington of Firefighter Veteran Network is one of the dedicated people helping the firefighters. He sent this email that I believe should be known to everyone in this country.
Shannon Pennington ex IAFF Calgary

Executive Director
F.I.R.E.S. Within Suicide Prevention Program

firefighterveteran on the world wide web:
Firefighter Veteran Network
July 11-12, 2011 BWI Four Points Sheraton
Baltimore Maryland

July On Line E Newsletter for North American Firefighter Veteran Network

We are Killing Ourselves Through Suicide
(Non Line of Duty Death, Suicides)

Welcome to this issue on a very complex and vitally important topic. I was invited along with several other organizations to attend the Issues of Depression and Suicide in the Fire Service.

First and foremost a huge thank you to the National Fallen Firefighter Foundation for taking this subject on under the Everyone Goes Home Firefighter Life Safety Initiatives Section 13, Mental Health and Wellness of the 16 components for our safety in the most dangerous profession in the world.

At there has been a direct presence and information about suicide prevention in our service using the F.I.R.S.T. S.T.E.P. H.O.P.E. program since 2006. From the meeting in Baltimore with the introduction of the N.A.F.F.V.N. program "F.I.R.E.S. Within", F.I.R.E.S. standing for Firefighter/First Responder Increased Risk Exposure to Suicide, information will be developed and posted on the web site and on the Everyone Goes Home web site under section 13, reinforceing the Fireline with resources, information and web based training.

These will be tools for the tool box you can use to combat the effects of depression and for some the "run into suicide". The information will provide H.O.P.E. through an understanding that "Suicides are Increasing" in our service as fast as any wild fire moves and consumes or as any structural fire erupts into open flame in the incipient stage and before 911 is called and rigs dispatched.

Line of Duty Death (L.O.D.D.) we in the fire service understand, perhaps all too well. Our response is quick, efficient, supportive to family and "rubber boot warriors" who clean the smoke sweat and tears off their faces and uniforms to render "last post" honors for the fallen and the family as well as the department affected. We are if nothing else good at the big "IT".

There is another bit "IT" however, lurking like an arsonist in the dark back alleys and open fields of our hearts and minds.

We are going to talk in this article about the other big "It" and what we can do and what is being done to "Cool, Quell and Quench the F.I.R.E.S. Within" each and every "Firefighter Veteran/First Responder working in the cities, towns, and rural "Fire Front Lines" of America and around the world.

Suicide became a very hot topic over the last 12 months and with the outbreak in Phoenix Fire Department along with other fire departments nationally, the all call went out to find the help and resources to start fighting back. For some, in our work, suicide was the "Only Option" and they could not see their way out of the emotional smoke of events that they had been witness to or a part of. For others the long dark road of "Depression" was a precursor to death. Those who took their life as a final act to stop the pain inside of them left behind a legacy of pain in the survivors, the widows and orphans, the very same ones we hold close under L.O.D.D. we somehow manage to abandon and leave behind under suicide circumstances. The shock waves go through the members immediate crew and department and cloud them in thoughts of what went wrong.

Firefighter Brad Pasishnek out of Local 255, I.A.F.F. Calgary Alberta Canada. One of ten suicides in the local. Brad took a skill saw to his neck to commit his final act in life. He left behind a wife, Christine and his two young boys, Connor and Daniel. I talked with Christine about the conference and she gave me permission to talk about Brad if it would make a difference to those who would be there and to firefighters who need to know that Brad lived a firefighterveterans life and died from the stress. She wants you to know that her widows struggle to raise her and Bradley's children is taking place without access to any support programs that could make a difference to their lives. Do you think people that we could do a little better than to abandon them beyond a mere token assist on getting the pension details sorted out for a survivor?

Depression is much like the smoke in a room that has become dormant and is waiting for a sudden inrush of air in order to ignite itself into a full blown back draft of emotions that explodes and runs wild within our heads. Somewhere between the head and the heart we are connected to the events that affect us in our line of work and the inch and a half hose needs to be gated back to a safe working emotional pressure so that we can start to talk about what is going on inside of us. From flashover to the free burning state the depression we experience in the attic or the basement, our heads or our guts, is consuming us in the form of suicide.

Too soon "IT" can consume us and the Perp Arsopnist that controls our thoughts and moods will gleefully retreat to find more firefighters to cull from our ranks.

N.L.O.D.D/S or Non Line of Duty Death/Suicides "CAN BE PREVENTED". It need not be so in the terrible outcome. F.I.R.E. Prevention is the key to the success of the American Fire Service when it comes time to face up to the reality of what has been going on in front of us in the crews, the departments and the culture that makes us who we are.

I did not enjoy the experience of being in a room of some 40 fire service leaders who were in Baltimore on July 11th and 12th 2011 to discuss the very topic of Depression and Suicide. It was not pretty, nor nice, nor happy, or joyous. It was worse than a basement fire fully involved with kids trapped. The honesty, and integrity that those who did attend, gave to the understanding, was to my way of thinking, powerfully presented. It was a drama like no other that I have experienced in my 26 years as a line firefighterveteran and as a member of my honor guard. It was however, necessary and a "wake up call" to take action.

In the near future from the National Fallen Firefighter Foundation under the leadership and direction of Executive Director Ronald J. Siarnicki,you will see on their web site under the section 13 mandate on line, web based training. Look for it. That should be available by the end of the year.

Additional resources to train rural clinicians on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (C.B.T.) will be made available. Peer support is vital in vetting those who are at risk and who need patience, understanding, love and support. If we give ourselves in service to our communities in need then we too have to recognize that we are a community and we have needs and those needs are inclusive of our protection of our own. The best peer practices are being developed but from what I heard in the symposium both Phoenix Fire, F.D.N.Y and Houston Fire have the skeleton models you can research for your own department.

The following individuals came to the symposium to present their side of the suicide equation which, is both academic and from life events which affected them.

Thomas Joiner, Ph.D., Professor, Department of Psychology, Florida State University. Dr. Joiner lost his father to suicide some years ago. He not only came armed with his research but with his story of loss and movement beyond the loss into the understanding.

Matthew K. Nock, Ph.D. Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, presenting in depth knowledge of suicide, the study into the math of statistics and how it all adds up.

Lanny Berman, Ph.D., ABPP, Executive Director, American Association of Suicidology who presented a solid overview of the problem and some examples of how to develop programs in prevention.

Ron Acierno, Ph.D. Professor of Psychology, Medical University of South Carolina, Director, PTSD Clinic, RJH VA Medical Center. (We are not alone with the suicide problem, veterans from the armed services are struggling to cope with this as well).

Additional heavy hitters were from the I.A.F.F., Rich Duffy, Assistant to the President,

Jeff Dill, Safety, Health and Survival Representative, International Association of Fire Chiefs, Jeff is conducting an on line survey of numbers of fire department suicides. He is the founder of Counseling For Firefighters (CFF) google. If you know of a suicide of a firefighterveteran then send your report to Jeff, confidential on line. We need the information so that grant applications can be made to help us study the problem in depth.

Thomas D. Miller MA, LPC, ALPS, ADC, West Virginia Director, National Volunteer Fire Council

Sandy Bogucki, Md, Ph.D. National Association of EMS Physicians,

Wendy Norris, Master Chaplain/Administrative Assistant, Federation of Fire Chaplains,

Karen Badger, Ph.D., MSW, Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors, Assistant Professor, College of Social Work, University of Kentucky. A special thank you from me to Karen for her grounding while I was wanting to leap out of my chair and shout out the need to have a program for our widows and orphans left behind. We got that message to the participants and it will be a part of their focus and follow on for inclusion in the outcome and protocols.

A full list of participants is available from me if you request it via email.

Richard Gist, Ph.D. did stellar work keeping us on track and focused. Richard is the Principal Assistant to Fire Chief Kansas City (MO) Fire Department and a Research Associate at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

In summary:

So, what can we say here about what is going on regarding suicides in our service?

It is a problem that can be resolved. IT IS OUR PROBLEM AND WE OWN IT AND WE CAN FIND THE SOLUTIONS NEEDED. We need to reach out with programs that are active and supportive. Look around the fire service and start talking to other departments that are doing just that. Talk to each other at the kitchen table about depression. Google the subject and look at and the National Fallen Firefighter Foundation section 13 Life Safety Initiative.

We do not have to re invent anything....we do have to do what is obvious. Stop looking away from the problem of Depression and Suicide in our fire service and start to face it full on on the fireline where it can be put out. We have adopted a defensive mode for far too long and lost too many good firefighterveterans. It is time to go on the offensive and bring on the additional resources that are already out there.

The fire bucket is full of the tears from surivivors, the widows and orphans who have been left behind by those who have lost H.O.P.E. We can do better than this. We are going to do better and you will see the programs start to roll.

In conclusion I will say that this has not been an easy process nor should it be to bring this newsletter/article to the web. It is however necessary. Like it or not the body parts are starting to cause departments to stumble on them. They are awake and listening to the message from those who took their lives. Are you?

Additional Information on Suicide Prevention is Available from your Primary Care Physician, and your local community mental health care clinics.
The Sweeny Alliance writes on line in blog and newsletter form. Use Google to find this.

Above all else: Guard your mind at work and at home. Depression happens to us. We are not superhumans but rather very human and vulnerable in the work we do. Let's get connected to the information. Buddy up for close support. Find a clinician who will work with you if you do feel the need to seek help. There is life beyond depression and it is something that is survivable if you get the help that is out there. Know the signs and symptoms of depression. Understand that booze and drugs mask the symptoms of depression and only cause you to loose focus on the positive aspects of a healthy life and healthy life choices. You deserve better and your family deserves you complete and whole.......GET A MENTAL HEALTH CHECK UP ONCE A YEAR JUST AS YOU GET A PHYSICAL......IT MAKES COMMONS SENSE.

A special thank you to Christine Pasishnek and her sons. Peace and Prayers for the three of you.

"Lets Roll"

Stay safe

Shannon Pennington
F.I.R.S.T. S.T.E.P. H.O.P.E.

Firefighter PTSD, Depression and Suicide -- Helping the Helpers
By JANE E. ALLEN, ABC News Medical Unit
Sept. 9, 2011
When Jack Slivinski Jr., a member of Philadelphia's elite fire rescue squad, killed himself last June, friends and family partly blamed the humiliating suspension he endured after he posed barechested for a firefighters' fund-raising calendar without department permission.

However, few people were aware that the caring, 32-year-old former Marine had been quietly drowning in survivor's guilt in the seven years since his supervisor suffered fatal burns racing into a collapsing building to rescue Slivinski and another firefighter, unaware they'd both gotten out.

"It was very apparent when you got to know Jack that it was something that was wearing on him," said Lt. Dan Cliggett, his close friend inside and outside the firehouse. Cliggett, along with Slivinski's wife, Carla, from whom he'd separated but hoped to reconcile, believe Slivinski had developed post-traumatic stress disorder because he felt responsible for the death of Lt. Derrick Harvey, 45.

The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, made heroes of the 343 New York City firefighters who lost their lives rushing to save others at the World Trade Center. But that tragic, life-changing day has also had a more subtle impact on the nation's first responders: It created more awareness, if not empathy, for the sacrifices they make in putting others' lives ahead of their own physical and psychological health. It also generated changes in firehouse culture and attitudes.
read more here
video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Lance Corporal Mills Palmer Bigham died of hidden wound

2 of 10 honored fallen soldiers suffered from PTSD
Wednesday, March 10, 2010 at 9:11 p.m.

Read more: Local, Military, Lance Corporal Mills Palmer Bigham, Ptsd, Hidden Wounds

COLUMBIA -- Ten soldiers gone but not forgotten.

It was an emotional day for many as lawmakers took a moment to honor soldiers that made the ultimate sacrifice.

Loved ones received the honors for their fallen family member, and each one brought their own memories and stories of how their soldier made a difference.

But the Bigham family comes to the table with a different type of war story.

"He got out and started suffering from PTSD, from war combat stress injuries," says Anna Bigham.

It was those invisible wounds that Anna says led to her brother, Lance Corporal Mills Palmer Bigham, to take his life last October.

And since then, Anna has made it her mission to help stop others from doing the same through her non-profit organization called Hidden Wounds.
read more here

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Better VA care sought for suicidal vets

Better VA care sought for suicidal vets

By Rick Maze - Staff writer
Posted : Wednesday Mar 3, 2010 14:32:00 EST

An Iraq war veteran whose life fell apart after several friends died in combat and others — including his brother — killed themselves told a Senate committee that the Veterans Affairs Department’s suicide prevention programs were “not beneficial at all to me.”

Testifying Wednesday before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Daniel Hanson, who deployed to Iraq in 2004 with 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines, said he sought VA help after his brother Travis, who had been undergoing treatment at a VA medical center, hung himself in 2007.

Crying as he spoke, Hanson said he sought help because “I really went off the deep end,” doing drugs and drinking every day as his marriage crumbled.

Hanson said he finished an outpatient program at the VA Medical Center in Saint Cloud, Minn., but attempted suicide about a month later, waking up from an overdose of prescription drugs to find himself in a psychiatric ward at the hospital on a 72-hour hold.

After his discharge, “there was almost no follow-up,” he told the committee. He quickly returned to using drugs and alcohol and feeling like he wanted to die.
read more here
Better VA care sought for suicidal vets

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Fewer veteran suicides reported, attempted ignored

When I saw this headline, I was happy, but that soon ended when I read the article itself. 33 attempted suicides was pretty much ignored. These were not prevented suicides but the wording was "failed" attempts. Not much hope on that end but they are trying.

Fewer veteran suicides reported
VA notes nine deaths in one-year period
Kevin Graman

The number of suicides among veterans in the Spokane region dropped dramatically last year, according to newly released records.

In response to a Spokesman-Review request for information, the Spokane Veterans Affairs Medical Center reported nine suicides from July 2008 to July 2009, including three veterans who had contact with the medical center.

Since that reporting period, there has been one other suicide of a veteran who had not sought treatment at Spokane VA, bringing to six the total number of suicides in calendar year 2009. In addition, there were 33 confirmed failed suicide attempts among Spokane-area veterans last year.
read more here

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Army suicides set another yearly record

The screaming fact is that while the numbers they report has gone up, they are not reporting all of them. Consider when a soldier is no longer active. The DOD will not track what happens to him or her. They may not be in the VA system, which reports 18 veteran suicides a day and another 10,000 a year attempting suicide. Still there are many more not bring tracked by the VA either. That's the thing we always need to remember. The numbers being reported are just the ones they are sure about. The rest, well, they just vanish from all records but not from the minds and hearts of the people who loved them.

Army suicides set another yearly record
By Mike Mount, CNN Senior Pentagon Producer
November 17, 2009 7:57 p.m. EST

Officials say recent trend downward could mean Army is making headway in prevention
As of Tuesday, 211 active duty soldiers and reservists have killed themselves the year
In 2008, total was 197 suicides among active duty soldiers and reservists
Fort Campbell, Fort Stewart and Schofield Barracks singled out for special concern

Washington (CNN) -- Suicides among soldiers this year have topped last year's record-breaking numbers, but Army officials maintain a recent trend downward could mean the service is making headway on its programs designed to reduce the problem, Army officials said Tuesday.

Since January, 140 active-duty soldiers have killed themselves while another 71 Army Reserve and National Guard soldiers killed themselves in the same time period, totaling 211 as of Tuesday, Gen. Peter Chiarelli, U.S. Army vice chief of staff, told reporters at a briefing Tuesday. But he said the monthly numbers are starting to slow down as the year nears its end.

"This is horrible, and I do not want to downplay the significance of these numbers in any way," Chiarelli said.

For all of 2008, the Army said 140 active-duty soldiers killed themselves while 57 Guard and Reserve soldiers committed suicide, totaling 197, according to Army statistics.

The Army is still trying to tackle why soldiers are killing themselves.
read more here

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Veteran talks about stress disorder

Veteran talks about stress disorder
By Meghan Walsh, Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
“I didn’t have issues. There were just stupid people around me doing stupid things,” Eddie Black told about 50 people at Southwestern Oregon Community College on Tuesday night.

That’s how Black felt when he returned home from serving in Baghdad, Iraq, in 2005. Other soldiers from his company were getting divorced and drinking heavily. They couldn’t control their anger. But Black was “peachy keen.”

In reality, the U.S. Army Infantry and Marine Corps veteran was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Like many veterans, however, his own perceptions of mental health and cultural stigmatisms prevented him from seeking help.

“I remember thinking to myself, ‘Is this what it’s like to be pregnant and have all those hor

Between 2000 and 2006, 1,066 male Oregon veterans committed suicide. That averages about 3.7 deaths a week. Yet, PTSD only recently has been brought to the forefront of society’s consciousness.

go here for more

Veteran talks about stress disorder

Maybe you can see better that PTSD is not new just because it's now news.

That's the bulk of the problem here. Wishing people like me were listened to that long ago will not bring back a single life lost, a son or daughter, a mother or father. Praying people like me are finally listened to may save lives in the future but what about today?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Oregon moves to curb veterans' suicides

State moves to curb veterans' suicides
Associated Press - January 20, 2009 1:15 PM ET

ALBANY, Ore. (AP) - Oregon is moving to curb the rising number of suicides among the state's veterans. The director of the Oregon Department of Veterans' Affairs, Jim Willis, says his agency was launching a television and print campaign to publicize a suicide-prevention lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK.

Willis said anyone should call who suspects a veteran is considering suicide.

Oregon ranks 13th in the nation for calls on the nationally run help line but is 37th in population.
click link for more

Monday, January 12, 2009

"He went to Fort Lewis to kill himself to prove a point,"

"He went to Fort Lewis to kill himself to prove a point,"
Chaplain Kathie

" 'Here I am. I was a soldier. You guys didn't help me.' "

Those were the words Josh Barber's widow told a reporter in the article below. That's the real issue here. For all the talk about what's being done, no one is talking about what does not work and may in fact cause more harm than good. What good does it do to tell wounded veterans we're doing this and we're doing that but they still don't get the help they need? As for the "programs" they have in place, some are good but some are bad but they still use them. We don't know why they do and the widows, well they only know they sent their husbands into combat expecting they would be taken care of if they were wounded but they end up with a stranger needing help that never seems to come in time.

If anyone other than the government said they had a program that would cut down the number of PTSD cases, attempted suicide and successful ones, would you really believe them without proof? Wouldn't there have to be years of clinical trails and scrutiny from psychologist and psychiatrists from around the world before they even began to offer the program?

RELEASE #2008-01-04-1 Jan. 4, 2008

By Susan Huseman
U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart Public Affairs Office
STUTTGART, Germany – Every Soldier headed to Iraq and Afghanistan receives“Battlemind” training designed to help him deal with combat experiences, but few know the science behind the program. Dr. Amy Adler, a senior research psychologist with the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research's U.S. Army Medical Research Unit Europe visited Patch Barracks here to explain the support and intervention program to an audience of medical, mental health and family support professionals.

The Battlemind system includes separate pre-deployment training modules for Soldiers,unit leaders, health care providers and spouses. Psychological debriefings are given during deployment and upon redeployment. There are also a post-deployment module forspouses and several post-deployment modules for Soldiers. Not every Soldier who deploys is at risk for mental health problems; the main risk factor is the level of combat experienced, Adler said.

Army studies show the greater the combat exposure a Soldier encounters, the greater the risk for mental health problems, including post traumatic stress disorder, depression,anger and relationship problems. When Soldiers first return home, they may not notice any problems; sometimes it takes a few months for problems to develop.For those in the medical community, “Our challenge was how to develop interventions that can get at all these things,” Adler said. “How do you develop a mental health training (program) of some sort that's going to prevent that eventual increase over time?“We realized we needed to develop some kind of alternative,” Adler continued. “Therewas no existing mental health training that made sense for these sets of questions. It’s not like there was something ‘off-the-shelf’ in civilian literature that would begin to address this.”

Post-deployment health briefings didn’t specifically target Soldiers going into combat and coming back with adjustment challenges, so researchers at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research began to define their objectives for a mental health training program. Adler said the team needed to develop something that was “going to make sense for different phases of the deployment cycle.”“For example,” she said, “the existing mental health brief (at the time) was the same for pre- and post-deployment. That doesn’t make sense. The challenges are different.”“Secondly,” she continued, “we wanted to make sure it was integrated. If we tell somebody something at (pre-deployment), we want to make sure whatever theme we’regoing for or concept we’re trying to communicate, it’s going to connect with the same information that we’re going to talk about at (post-deployment).”The result? “Battlemind,” a term used to describe combat readiness that the researchers felt was appropriate for the training they were designing.

Adler called it a Soldier’s inner strength to face fear and adversity in combat with courage, labeling it “resiliency.”The Battlemind system is built on findings from surveys and interviews given to Soldiers and Marines returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, many of the researchers themselves have deployed.The research team gathered Soldiers’ accounts of specific events and incidents, turning them into teaching tools that warriors can relate to. “Some of these stories tell more than any briefing ever could,” Adler said.The first Battlemind product was a mental health post-deployment briefing. It quickly became a training system supporting Soldiers and families across the seven phases of the deployment cycle.

As part of her presentation here, Adler discussed various challenges in developing arelevant pre-deployment mental health briefing for Soldiers.“You have 45 minutes -- maybe an hour -- to tell Soldiers, before they deploy to Iraq, something about mental health,” she said. "What are you going to tell them? You don’t want to sugar-coat it, but you don’t want to teach them a whole lot of new information right at a time when they are focused on the task ahead of them.”The researchers first chose to identify the reality of combat and deployment. It may sound rudimentary, but earlier research found that soldiers were not telling other Soldiers what to expect.

Soldiers didn’t want to sound as if they were bragging, Adler said. Pre-deployment Battlemind tells Soldiers what they are likely to see, to hear, to think and to feel while deployed by describing the worst-case scenario.For the post-deployment phase, Battlemind addresses safety concerns and relationship issues, normalizes combat-related mental health reactions and symptoms, and teachesSoldiers when they should seek mental health support for themselves or for their buddies.The researchers realized that this post-deployment briefing, the original Battlemind, was not enough. The Soldiers they talked to were raw, edgy and angry. Another training program, Battlemind II, was developed to be given three to six months into redeployment.The system reemphasizes normal reactions and symptoms related to combat and“Battlemind checks,” which are signs that indicate mental health support is needed.“If you’re still carrying a weapon around with you during the three- to six-month postdeployment phase; ... if you’re still looking around for snipers; if your sleep is still really messed up; these might be signs that your transition is not going smoothly,” she explained. “These are signs that you need to get help."

The problem with Battlemind is that it does not work because of the mixed message they are giving.

Psychiatr News May 4, 2007
Volume 42, Number 9, page 2
© 2007 American Psychiatric Association

Professional News

Combat Stress Should Be Considered Preventable, Manageable
Aaron Levin
The stresses of combat in Iraq or Afghanistan need to be seen in a context that is broader than just that of PTSD risk—a context of resiliency and recovery
Soldiers returning from war in Iraq and Afghanistan often bear the psychic scars of battle, but a closer understanding of their experience can help reintegrate them into civilian life and avoid overpathologizing their conditions, said two clinicians who have studied and treated posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

"We need to move from an obsession with PTSD to focus on combat stress, injury prevention, and management," said Charles Figley, Ph.D., a professor at Florida State University's College of Social Work and director of the university's Traumatology Institute and Psychosocial Stress Research Program

Figley spoke at a conference on mental health needs of returning soldiers and their families in Columbia, Mo., sponsored by the International Medical and Educational Trust at the University of Missouri.

Calling wartime trauma "combat stress injury" would place it in the same light as other war wounds: preventable and manageable, if sometimes irreversible, said Figley.

However, prevention and management must begin early, he said. Troops should acknowledge the likelihood and fact of injury beginning in boot camp. Before they are wounded, troops believe they are invulnerable and even after physical injury, often deny they are hurt. To a soldier, injury, whether physical or psychological, is a source of embarrassment. They have to move from denial to needing to talk about their injuries, said Figley. click link above for more

I am not a psychologist or a psychiatrist but in a sense that makes me more qualified to understand what all this mumbo jumbo sounds like to average people. First they are giving the impression that PTSD can be "prevented" but they have yet to understand why some are wounded by PTSD and others walk away. (More on this later) So how can they claim it can be preventable if they don't even know the detail? It's either one out of three, which happens to be the percentage most professionals go by or one out of five, which gets tossed around a lot but no one seems to know exactly who gets signaled out when traumatic events strike. In order to prevent it they would have to prevent humans from being exposed to traumatic events all together.

The "manageable" part, yes that is possible but that comes with knowing what it is, being treated for it and finding the best way to live your life living with it. No small task but it is possible.

I need to stress here that Battlemind is not a total bust. It does have a lot of good points like trying to make sure they get the point across this is nothing to be ashamed of, along with some other points but the problem is this information comes after this part.
"Battlemind is the Soldier's inner strength to face fear and adversity with courage. Key components include:
Self confidence: taking calculated risks and handling challenges.
Mental toughness: overcoming obstacles or setbacks and maintaining positive thoughts during times of adversity and challenge."

They actually think that you can just make your mind tough enough to handle it! What kind of a message does this send? Do they really, really think that it's only those with weaker minds? After all this is what they are telling the troops at the same time they want to deliver the message there is nothing to be ashamed of.

I tell the story often of how one of the visits to the Orlando VA, I was talking to a couple of Iraq veterans. One was a Marine. He was a tough looking Marine until he began to cry and apologized for it. I had on my Chaplain shirt so he knew who he was talking to but he still felt he needed to apologize for showing emotion. When I told him that it was actually good for him to release some of his pain at that moment he told me that I didn't understand. "I'm a Marine. We're supposed to be tough enough to take it." It took a lot of talking before he understood that he did his duty and was tough enough to get through having his life and his buddies lives on the line until they were all out of danger before he even began to think of what was going on inside of him. This is what Battlemind does. It tells them their minds are not tough enough. This damages them more than anything else ever could and reinforces the idiotic attitude that only weak minded people crash. If this was the case then they'd all be crashing in combat and not after they have already returned home. How much tougher can these men and women get to be able to do that? Did the creators of Battlemind ever think of that?

The next part about Battlemind is the lack of time they are exposed to it before they go into combat. This is from VetsVoice.

BATTLEMIND: A Guide to PTSD for Military Members and their Spouses
by: Combat Infantry Bunny
Sat Dec 29, 2007 at 13:48:29 PM EST

.........From my understanding from those deployed, they are already requiring soldiers about to redeploy this, but my friend said it was just lumped in with all the other random redeployment briefings and no one really cared.

In addition, PTSD is a post-deployment thing and a refresher is sometimes necessary. Anyway, reading this brochure and explanations for PTSD really made sense, especially when I realized I pretty much fit every description re: PTSD behavior. Again, it made me realize I had made the right decision to seek help and I hope that everyone that reads this will forward it to any military personnel they know who may have PTSD and/or to their families who may be trying to understand what their soldier is going through, I think the following explains it very well:

Battlemind is the Soldier's inner strength to face fear and adversity with courage. Key components include:
• Self confidence: taking calculated risks and handling challenges.
• Mental toughness: overcoming obstacles or setbacks and maintaining
positive thoughts during times of adversity and challenge.

Batttlemind skills helped you survive in combat, but may
cause you problems if not adapted when you get home.

Every letter in B-A-T-T-L-E-M-I-N-D, refers to a different behavior, as shown below:

Buddies (Cohesion) vs. Withdrawal
Accountability vs. Controlling
Targeted Aggression vs. Inappropriate Aggression
Tactical Awareness vs. Hypervigilance
Lethally Armed vs. "Locked and Loaded" at Home
Emotional Control vs. Anger/Detachment
Mission Operational Security vs. Secretiveness
Individual Responsibility vs. Guilt
Non-defensive (combat) driving vs. Aggressive Driving
Discipline and Ordering vs. Conflict

While he does say that Battlemind does have some good points the first point made was that it was introduced lumped in with a bunch of other stuff. This was first reported by the BBC that uncovered only 11 1/2 minutes of Battlemind are provided when they arrive "in country" along with the two days of operational briefings they have to get through.

They will be left thinking they can toughen their minds enough to not have to face PTSD and that also means that if anyone does, they are not tough enough. This includes their buddies and some of the others in their unit they may not happen to like very much and if they should end up wounded by it, well then, they must not be tough enough either. This is why Battlemind does not work and as a matter of fact very well could contribute to the increase in suicides and attempted suicides.
Army suicides rise as time spent in combat increases
By Gregg Zoroya, USA TODAY
FORT LEWIS, Wash. — Josh Barber, former combat soldier, parked outside the Army hospital here one morning last August armed for war.

A cook at the dining facility, Barber sat in his truck wearing battle fatigues, earplugs and a camouflage hood on his head. He had an arsenal: seven loaded guns, nearly 1,000 rounds of ammunition, knives in his pockets. On the front seat, an AK-47had a bullet in the chamber.

The "smell of death" he experienced in Iraq continued to haunt him, his wife says. He was embittered about the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that crippled him, the Army's failure to treat it, and the strains the disorder put on his marriage.

Despite the firepower he brought with him, Barber, 31, took only one life that day. He killed himself with a shot to the head.

"He went to Fort Lewis to kill himself to prove a point," Kelly Barber says. " 'Here I am. I was a soldier. You guys didn't help me.' "

Barber's suicide is part of a larger story — the record number of soldiers and combat veterans who have killed themselves in recent years, at a time when the Pentagon has stretched deployments for combat troops to meet President Bush's security plans in Iraq. In 2007, the Army counted 115 suicides, the most since tracking began in 1980. By October 2008, that record had been surpassed with 117 soldier suicides. Final numbers for 2008 have not been released.

Suicides among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans doubled from 52 in 2004 to 110 in 2006, the latest statistics available, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

And the suicide rate among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans is outpacing the rate among civilians, a disturbing trend because the military screens troops for mental health issues and servicemembers typically are healthier than civilians, says Han Kang, a VA epidemiologist. click link for more

So why are they still using it and why are they still pushing it as if it has done any good at all? As I said, there are some really great points to this program but they come after that damage has already been done. Believe me, I'm no genius, so I don't have all the answers but if I can figure out what harm this program has done, this bunch of "egg heads" should have been able to look past their books and see into the people this would be delivered to. They are not genius material either. They are just men and women willing to lay down their lives for what this nation asks of them. They are common people just like most Americans and words do matter to them. You can't tell them in your first breathe that they can train their brain to be tough and then follow that up with "Oh by the way, if you don't, you may end up with PTSD and need help so here's what you do then." The damage is already done to them. After that they can repeat it until they are blue that PTSD is nothing to be ashamed of and they need to ask for help because it's already in there that it's their fault.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Legacy Of Joshua Omvig

by Chaplain Kathie

The story of Joshua Omvig turned out to be one of hope. While his family grieved for the tragic death of their son, they turned that grief into action. Joshua was like so many not taken care of by the country when they needed us. They wanted to make sure that no other family would have to feel their pain without fighting to change what was wrong. They did just that. The Joshua Omvig Suicide Prevention Bill was signed into law. Senator Tom Coburn was the only holdout. He too issue with the gun rule that would stop PTSD veterans from getting gun permits.

Statistics show the suicide method of choice is firearms. The problem with this is that there are a lot of PTSD veterans on police forces and other jobs that require firearms. There is also the problem this rule would prevent many veterans from seeking help if they thought they would have to surrender their guns.

There was a time when I thought it made more sense to keep the rule in until a friend of mine pointed this out. He has a gun and he has PTSD. If this rule was in place when he was diagnosed, he wouldn't have taken the chance of giving up his gun. The paranoia factor played into this as well. When a veteran has PTSD, part of it is "patrolling the perimeter" in a nightly ritual. They are constantly on guard duty. Taking away their guns would have caused more harm than helped the suicidal veteran. If they don't have guns, they use other things to commit suicide. What it would reduce is using them in domestic violence. There have been many cases where guns have been used but there are other cases when the spouse was killed by other means. The answer is not to take guns away but to treat the veterans with the therapy and medications they need to cope with it.

Here is the story of Joshua Omvig and what his parent did to help others.

Joshua Omvig
12/22/2005 JOSHUA OMVIG 22 GRUNDY CENTER, IA GUNSHOT Rep. Boswell, a Vietnam veteran, last month proposed a new suicide-prevention program for veterans. The “Joshua Omvig Veterans Suicide Prevention Act,” H.R. 5771, now has 77 sponsors in Congress. It would set up a VA program to screen and monitor veterans for suicide risk factors. Nearly one of every five returning Iraq veterans reported a mental-health problem, according to an Army study published in March. And nearly one in 10 was diagnosed with Post-tramatic Stress Disorder.

Joshua Omvig (1983 - 2005)

Josh was a Proud American, an American Hero and a member of the United States Army Reserve 339th MP Company based in Davenport, Iowa. At six foot three, the impressiveness of his jet black hair, dark brown, almost black, eyes and long black eye lashes were matched only by his devilish charm and wit. Josh was everyone's friend whether he knew you or not. There were no strangers when he was in the room. He made everyone feel apart of the whole, and being the "clown" of the class made sure entertainment was never lacking either.

To say Josh was the typical "Kid Next Door" sounds odd but he really was JUST A GOOD KID. His whole life he wanted to work in public service and stayed focused on that dream of being a Police Officer for as long as I can remember. He always kept his nose clean knowing it was going to someday be important to his career. He loved to participate in sports, hang out with his friends, play video games and spend time with his family.

As an adult, Josh was a PROUD member of the Grundy Center American Lutheran Church, the Grundy Center Volunteer Fire Department, and the Grundy Center Police Reserves.

He insisted on graduating early from high school after joining the reserves to get his career started. So excited about his future, he wanted to get into basic training as fast as he could....He had wanted to serve and protect his country, and it's citizens. His dream of becoming a Police Officer was nearly here. The Army Reserves was his ticket to achieving that dream.

......then came 911, The War Against Terror, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and Iraq.

In November of 2004, Josh returned from an 11 month tour of duty in Iraq, fighting for his country and it's people in "Operation Iraqi Freedom."

While serving in Iraq, the conditions where unimaginable, and worse yet were the UNSPEAKABLE "jobs" and "duties" they had to do.

One truly can't understand unless they've been there, what these men and women face every single day. From the moment they set foot on foreign soil, they are in a combat zone every single second of every single day ...until they return home. Any moment could be their last moment... they know it... they have to... in order to survive.

The stories that come out of these war zones covered in the news are unimaginable to those of us safe in our homes. It's inconceivable, the damage that could be done to one's mind after seeing the mutilation an IED does to a human body, or what it would be like to retrieve the body parts of a friend to send home to their family for burial.

What must it be like to have to watch your back 24 hours a day, even while you know any garbage bag on the side of the road could be a bomb...any child could be a decoy for an ambush....any woman who approaches you crying could be strapped with explosives...that giving a candy bar to a child could cost that child his arms as retrobution for accepting it.


Josh loved his country, and was HONORED to defend her and the freedoms of it's people. He knew why he had to do the things he and others did, he was just never able to recover from having seen and done them.

He came home to us from Iraq with PTSD (POST TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER) and was never the same Josh again.

Josh's "DEBRIEFING" consisted of ONLY 15 minutes of "Welcome Home, Got any Problems? No? Great.. well, Let us know...See Ya"
AND IT'S HAPPENING TO OTHERS: Read the article -
"Navy acts to improve mental health screening for sailors"


What they are doing (OR NOT DOING) is killing our troops!

We knew Josh was having a hard time, but not in ANY way to the extent it REALLY was. We surely didn't know it had a name, or that it was an epidemic with our American Heroes in and returning from Iraq.

We knew there was such a thing as PTSD, but it just never "clicked" that THIS was what was happening to our Josh!..Josh was the clown, the one with the smile, the one who made others feel better. He hid the magnitude this disorder had on him very well. He suffered in silence like MOST of our soldiers with PTSD are doing.

On Thurs. Dec. 22, 2005, our Josh took his life after leaving a note explaining his torment.

Through the course of Josh's viewing and funeral ( attended by an overflow crowd of over 500 ), his family was made aware there were others suffering from the same disorder, in silence, like Josh had...LOTS OF THEM

While sitting in the Emergency Room for ONE HOUR with their dead son's body, being asked and explained about ORGAN DONATION, the nurse got off the phone with University Hospital in Iowa City and told Josh's parents that despite Josh's request to have his organs donated, "OH, I'M SORRY... WE FORGOT THAT HE CAN'T DONATE ORGANS BECAUSE HE WAS IN THE MID EAST... HE HAS A VIRUS."

When asked "WHAT Virus?", they were 'put off' and never responded to.

When BEGGED by Josh's parents to TEST him to SEE if he had a VIRUS "just in case he COULD DONATE".. They just said, "WE WON'T CHECK THE BODIES, EVERYBODY FROM THE MID EAST HAS GOT IT" "'s a blanket policy!"

Vets Step Up To Prevent Suicide

Toll Free Hot Line, Clinics Go Online

POSTED: 9:25 am CDT July 7, 2008

OMAHA, Neb. -- The Veterans Administration said it is taking new steps to help men and women who can't leave the battles behind.

It's a direct response to the number of soldiers suffering post-traumatic stress disorder and the number of suicides among America's veterans.

Iowa native Joshua Omvig was a soldier who served many months in Iraq. The battle never ended when he came home, his family said, and the 22-year-old took his own life. Omvig's parents said that the transition from war zone to home was too much. He didn't have enough time to decompress, and they said he suffered in silence.

Omvig's parents later discovered he had post-traumatic stress disorder, which they believe triggered by what he saw and experienced daily while at war.

Doctors said that coming home doesn't automatically shut off the images for veterans.

"The sheer terror of dying in situations no one in their rational mind could begin to explain," said Col. Richard Harper (Ret.).

Harper said he understands the personal fight Omvig and other veterans go through. He said that he suffers from PTSD, and as a decorated career military man, it wasn't easy to ask for help. He said it was too hard to admit weakness until he was overcome by depression and could no longer function at work.

"Very difficult to accept, because it wasn't who I was. It wasn't what I'd achieved," Harper said.

Since October, the Nebraska-Western Iowa Veteran Health Care System has diagnosed close to 5,000 veterans with PTSD. About 450 of those served in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Since January, there have been four veterans in the Nebraska VA system who committed suicide and eight have attempted to take their lives. Those are only the ones reported to the VA.

"It doesn't matter what the numbers are, even if we have one in a calendar year, that's one too many," said David Tuttle, a suicide prevention coordinator.

Now the local VA said it is doing a number of things to try and reach veterans who need help but may be afraid to ask. Last year, the VA established a suicide hot line. If a veteran calls in crisis, there's immediate help and follow-up care.
click link above for more

US official urges mental health changes

Randall Omvig testifies about his son Joshua's suicide during an appearance before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee on Capitol Hill in April 2007. Veterans' groups and families who have lost loved ones say not enough help is being provided by the Pentagon for troops struggling with mental health issues.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Pentagon's top health official said Thursday he wants to see better mental health assessments, stronger privacy protections and a "buddy system" to change the military's stigma against seeking help for anxiety and depression.
Speaking to Congress as the military rushes to improve its much-criticized mental health system, S. Ward Casscells, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, also acknowledged that the Army's touted plans to hire 25% additional mental health specialists may prove hard to fulfill for awhile because of problems in recruiting and retaining active-duty professionals.

"It's not easy to get people into the military," said Casscells, referring to plans by Army Surgeon Gen. Gail Pollock. "We cannot hire 200 Army psychiatrists, which Gen. Pollock wants to do, we can't do that overnight. So we need everyone to reach out and look out for service members."

"It might mean if your buddy in combat is staring off into space and not laughing anymore at the dumb jokes, maybe it's a sign they might need to go back to base, get three hot meals and to talk to someone confidentially," he added. "I don't expect we will have a perfect solution."

Casscells' comments came as the Pentagon and Congress are reviewing 95 recommendations made last month by a task force chaired by Navy Surgeon General Donald Arthur. Issuing an urgent warning, the panel found that more than one-third of troops and veterans currently suffer from problems such as traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder and urged stronger leadership, more money and a fundamental shift in treatment to focus on prevention and screening.