A seven-year-old second-grader attempted suicide while his father was serving yet another tour in Iraq. Seven years old. Seven. His mother was one of half a dozen military spouses I have spoken with about soldiers’ kids who have attempted suicide during their fathers’ deployments.
When I was seven, it was 1972, and there were 69,000 US troops in Vietnam. Men were still being drafted and deployed, but not my dad. So I was spared the circumstances that led a seven-year-old to try to kill himself.
Three-plus decades ago, parents were exempt from conscription because of overwhelming concern about the harmful effects of deployment on children. Today, roughly half of the troops who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan are parents, many of whom have served multiple tours. Repeat deployments stress soldiers and escalate the likelihood of psychological injuries that can last for a lifetime. There is a small, but rapidly growing, body of evidence suggesting that the same is true of their children.
The Associated Press reported that “After nearly eight years of war, soldiers are not the only ones experiencing mental anguish…. Last year, children of US troops sought outpatient mental health care 2 million times, double the number at the start of the Iraq war…. Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, inpatient visits among military children have increased 50 percent. (“War stresses military kids,” July 12, 2009.)
The United States Department of Veterans Affairs latest research on mental health issues of troops who served in Iraq and Afghanistan shows that “the prevalence of new diagnoses in early 2008 had nearly doubled from four years prior in 2004.” (“Study reveals sharp rise in diagnoses of disorders,” Stars & Stripes, July 18, 2009.)
Filed under: Censorship, Civil Liberties, Education Industrial Complex, Information, Military Industrial Complex, Prison Industrial Complex | Tagged: Afghanistan, Army, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Veterans Affairs, Iraq, Kris Peterson, Navy, recruiter, USAF, USMC, Vietnam, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, youth | 1 Comment »