If you watch the news, have read articles I’m sure you’re familiar with Staff Sgt. Robert Bales. Staff Sgt. Bales is being charged with 17 counts of murder, assault and a slew of other charges from what’s being called a massacre of Afghan villagers by U.S. officials.
Staggering Statistics from Studies and the Veterans Affairs
Did you know that 1 in 5 returning Afghan and Iraq war veterans suffer from PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or Major Depression according to VA (Veterans Affairs).
Nearly 20 percent of military service members who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan — 300,000 in all — report symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder or major depression, yet only slightly more than half have sought treatment, according to a new RAND Corporation Study.
In addition too, researchers found about 19 percent of returning service members report that they experienced a possible traumatic brain injury while deployed, with 7 percent reporting both a probable brain injury and current PTSD or major depression.
Many service members said they do not seek treatment for psychological illnesses because they fear it will harm their careers. Being subject to ridicule. Being considered unfit for duty. But even among those who do seek help for PTSD or major depression, only about half receive treatment that researchers consider “minimally adequate” for their illnesses.
In the first analysis of its kind, researchers estimate that PTSD and depression among returning service members will cost the nation as much as $6.2 billion in the two years following deployment — an amount that includes both direct medical care and costs for lost productivity and suicide. Investing in more high-quality treatment could save close to $2 billion within two years by substantially reducing those indirect costs, according to RAND study.
Here’s another staggering statistic. Suicides among returning soldiers are up 26% according to the VA (Veterans Affairs). There are an estimated 30,000 suicides in this country alone and 20% of those suicides are committed by our veterans according to the VA.
We Have an Epidemic on our Hands
We all know that there is a major health crisis facing those men and women who have served our nation in Iraq and Afghanistan. Unless they receive appropriate and effective care for these mental health conditions, there will be long-term consequences for them and for our nation. Unfortunately, there are many barriers preventing them from getting the high-quality treatment they need.
Researchers concluded that a major national effort is needed to expand and improve the capacity of the mental health system to provide effective care to service members and veterans. The effort must include the military, veteran and civilian health care systems, and should focus on training more providers to use high-quality, evidence-based treatment methods and encouraging service members and veterans to seek needed care.
Since October 2001, about 1.6 million U.S. troops have deployed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, with many exposed to prolonged periods of combat-related stress or traumatic events. Early evidence suggests that the psychological toll of the deployments may be disproportionately high compared with physical injuries.
The epidemic that is running wild among our returning troops is PTSD and Major Depression. More of our troops are suffering mental illnesses than physical injuries. This is not the first time you have heard one of our returning soldiers committing homicide, suicide, turning to drug & alcohol abuse, marital problems, unemployment, homelessness, committing crimes etc.
Is Staff Sgt. Robert Bales a Killer or a Victim of War?
Is Staff Sgt. Robert Bales a murderer? Is he really a cold blooded killer? Is he a true menace to society? Or is he a victim of circumstances? Did he wake up one morning and say, “I’m going on a murder spree? Who knows? Please understand something, I’m not condoning what Robert Bales did by no means, however you have to stop and think about something. There is definitely something going on with this soldier. You have just read the staggering statistics above. This is a man that has done numerous tours in Afghanistan & Iraq. To be exact, Staff Sgt. Bales served (1) tour in Afghanistan and (3) tours in Iraq. This is a man that has seen more violence, been in involved in more violence than anyone you can imagine. Yes, there are thousands of others that have been exposed to what Robert Bales has been exposed too as well. However, everyone is different, therefore what they experience and how they handle that experience is different as well.
This is a man that is a victim of our war. A victim in the sense that he suffers a major case of PTSD and/or a traumatic brain injury. He was experiencing stress beyond explanation. This is a man that was pushed to his breaking point. Yes, he turned to committing murder on innocent Afghans. People that didn’t deserve to die. But what if Bales would have taken his own life? Would he be considered a hero or another victim of circumstances? This is a man that should not have done (4) tours of war.
As a retired Police Officer and suffer of PTSD myself for shooting and killing a man in the course of a robbery & defending my own life, I can only imagine what Staff Sgt. Bales and the rest of the troops have experienced. I was second guessed, Monday morning quarterbacked, my past picked apart just as Bales’ past is being picked apart. This is unfair. Bales served his country in war not just once but four times. Enough is enough. There should be limits and guidelines on how many tours our troops serve. Where are our Commanders, our Leaders? There in the background not doing what the front-line is doing. Their not in the trenches like they are. Do they really care about them? One can only wonder what their mindset is. Understandably, the job needs to get done but it shouldn’t be at the expense of our fellow men and women. It not only affects them, it affects hundreds of thousands of others. Their families, friends, co-workers.
Staff Sgt. Robert Bales is not a killer. He is a victim of war.
I’m John R. Salkowski, Founder of AchieveSuccessAcademy.com, Retired Police Officer, Survivor of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), and Author, Speaker on Leadership, Success and Overcoming Adversity.
I can be reached via email at John@JohnSalkowski.com
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