Veterans and Psychological Health Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Mental Health in Veterans

What is mental Illness: Mental Illness Facts

A person is said to be mentally when he finds it difficult to cope up with even mundane demands of day-to-day living activities and demands. This could be a result of either or a combination of the following: disrupted thinking patterns and, inability to relate to persons around him among other things that are normally easy on effort. The ailments that are of a more serious nature include those like posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), suicidal inclinations, Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), schizophrenia, among other psychosocial behavioral inconsistencies. The latest work on them has found solutions to correct most, if not all of these ailments (NAMI, 2014).

Common Mental Health Issues in Veterans

About a quarter of the populace in the U.S. annually, are supposed to be carrying curable mental health problems, majority of which are associated with symptoms like acute depression and anxiety. As against this statistical enormity, a larger, almost forty percent of those war veterans that separated from the Afghanistan and Iraq war and reported to the health care facilities and services provided for by the VA (Veterans Affairs) are suspected of being afflicted with a minimum of one of the many mental health disorders, like PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in a 2014 communique reveals that depression and PTSD constitute most of the mental health related issues with those separated from the combat zone in the said countries.

Studies and Findings

It is not completely known as to what exactly leads to suicidal tendencies and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is however believed that there are various factors including pre-dominantly those of biological, genetic and early life experiences that their complex interactions that can cause a person to exhibit these tendencies of mental instability in the face of the trauma and war-related incidences. Some of the biological investigations are still trying to investigate at the molecular level the impact of malfunctioning and changes in neuroendocrinal metabolism to cause PTSD. The notable areas of focus are: HPA- hypo-thalamic -- pituitary- adrenal axis, the neurotransmitter systems' functioning that involves GABA (gammaamino butyric acid) dopamine, serotonin, endogenous opioids, and others like noradrenalin and glutamate. These are the thought to contribute to the augmentation of serious depression under traumatic simulation or even suicidal inclinations.

It is not conclusively proved that suicidal tendencies and PTSD are hereditary in nature. PTSD as a result of battles and wars are of the extreme kind raising the likely hood of suicidal intentions. There have always been contrasting views on the implications and effects of BDNF (brain derived neutrophonic factors and secretion of COMT (catechol-o-methyltransferase) towards aggravating as also instigating PTSD and suicidal tendency. McCleod, 2012, has observed that exactly opposite views have been divulged on the relation between the occurrences of PTSD and these polymorphisms.

In spite of the fact that the very high stress levels experienced by the combat weary Veterans of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom are granted a free health services leave, the mental health and PTSD treatment facilities are very basic in nature, if at all. The VA facilities are devoid of special staff and are ill-equipped to handle the statistical enormity and provide data accumulation and maintenance for a proper appropriation of PTSD and psychosocial problems that the veterans so invariably face.

In this study, those veterans brought back from OEF/OIF military operations, that visited the health care facilities operated by VA, were documented for single mental health problems or PTSD or both according to the guidelines as described in the International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification codes. The various groups and subgroups' data related to deployment of health facilities are listed for clear demarcation of those at the greatest risk of mental disorders or risks thereof.

Degree of Severity in different Groups/Populations

Over one hundred thousand (precise number: 1, 03,788) veterans were studied at the Health Care Facilities operated by the VA. The socio-demographic break-up found was (as can be seen in the Table 1 below): younger than 30 years of age: 54%; non-active combat (back-up and allied service) National Guards/Reserve forces: about 50%; ethnic minorities: about 30% and women: 13%.

The records of about 47% of them was available regarding their time of separation from service and visiting The VA health care services for the first time. The statistics received revealed that the mean time interval between leaving the services and seeking VA health assistance facility was close to 3 months (whereas the IQR (intraquartile range) was found to vary from one and a half months to six months). It was found that the mean longevity of the visits was close to 8 months (till the last date of study, (30th December, 2005), and the IQR was 2.9 to 14.5 months. Almost each and every separated veteran visited the facility (about 99.7%) and 9, 941 visited outside health facilities to be reimbursed later by the VA. 1,03,734 of the 1,03,788 veterans visited as outpatients, and about three percent or, 3,213 also visited as inpatients (Seal, 2014)

The mental health diagnostic data is filled in Table 2. A quarter (25,658) of the veterans was diagnosed with at least one mental health issue. The median value for number of health issues was found to be three with the IQR lying between 1 and 7. About a half (44%) had one mental affliction; twenty percent constituted those with two mental health problems and 27% with at least 3 problems of varying nature. A large number (18,582) had the same mental health problem diagnosed. PTSD constitutes the most frequently related issue in those surveyed and documented (13,205). On including psychosocial disorders and other mental health related issues it was found that 32,010 of the 1, 03,788 were found to fall into the group.

The diagnoses of mental health disorders were initialized in a non-mental set-up.the ratios of the ones with mental health problems and those with psychosocial disorders is displayed in the second and third columns of Table 2 (mental/non-mental health set-ups) 42% in primary care and remaining 18% in other set-ups.

The fourth column of the table 2 gives the ratio of those who made repeat visits having diagnosed in the non-mental settings for mental health problems first. The fifth column shows the ratio of those that revisited for the same issues as that diagnosed for in the first visit in the non-mental set-up. It was found that majority of them (92%) had the very same illness of mental health as that diagnosed in the non-metal set-up in the first visit (Seal, 2007).

Table 3 below enunciates that there exists almost no perceptible difference in the percentage of people of different age group afflicted mentally, in action in Iraq and Afghanistan wars. The risk in OEF/OIF was the same for mental health deterioration across all age groups. When classified in the age group domain, it was found that those less than thirty years of age were most susceptible to mental health disorders. It was also found that the white males were more vulnerable to PTSD and MH than their Black counterparts. In all, the youngsters were more vulnerable than the older war veterans.

Nonmental health centers (operated by VA) reported cases of mental health afflictions in cases concurrence of psychosocial and other mental problems very early. There ought to be preventive measures with those carrying the maximum risk and those ailments that are most frequently seen in veterans.

The terrestrial war waged in Iraq and Afghanistan was the most long drawn operation that involved American forces after the Vietnam military operation. With the guerilla warfare being dominant tactic used in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the massive use of IED's the pressure was faced by the personnel on duty was the heaviest. With maiming, serious injuries and most chances of survival, mental health becomes a casualty, causing alcohol abuse and PTSD amongst those active as well as veterans of the OIF and to a smaller degree of the OEF (Seal, 2007).

Common Causes and Preventive Measures

The notion of providing support to those engaged in war is built around the deployment, encouragement and support provided by peers, and people from the top military echelons in general (King, King and Vogt, 2003). This results in bringing feeling of unity and stability underlining cohesiveness during a military exercise. It has been observed that during battles and wars the intensity of post traumatic stress disorder was greatly diminished if there is a better kinship and support within the military unit (Brailey, Vasterling, Proctor, Constans, & Friedman, 2007; Iversen et al., 2008; McTeague, McNally, & Litz, 200l) along with associated psychological disorders (Martin, Rosen, Durand, Knudson, & Stretch, 2000).The inclusion of social factor in de-stressing people and lessening the trauma of military operations is assigned to provisions of emotional support, information sharing and appreciation of any mental health syndromes (Cobb, 1976).

It has been verified that leaders' empathy and proximity with the soldiers' feelings helps de-stress them…

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