Keeping the blogosphere posted on the goings on of the world of submarines since late 2004... and mocking and belittling general foolishness wherever it may be found. Idaho's first and foremost submarine blog. (If you don't like something on this blog, please E-mail me; don't call me at home.)

Sunday, March 19, 2006

This Is Such Crap!

An article from the San Diego Union-Tribune, provocatively titled "Some troops headed back to Iraq are mentally ill", provides another example of how it's OK in the press to use inferences and broad generalizations when applying labels to those in the military culture that would never be allowed if speaking of other cultures. From the lede:

"Besides bringing antibiotics and painkillers, military personnel nationwide are heading back to Iraq with a cache of antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications.
"The psychotropic drugs are a bow to a little-discussed truth fraught with implications: Mentally ill service members are being returned to combat."

The article goes on to discuss how 200,000 prescriptions for SSRIs (used to treat depression and such, and marketed under brand names like Paxil) have been given out for the military and dependents. Note that no breakdown is provided between active duty and dependents. Is the article trying to say that everyone who takes anti-depressants is mentally ill? Is the San Diego Union Tribune trying to imply that?

"But medical officers for the Army and Marine Corps acknowledge that medicated service members – and those suffering combat-induced psychological problems – are returning to war. And anecdotal evidence, bolstered by the government's own studies, suggest that the number could be significant.
"A 2004 Army report found that up to 17 percent of combat-seasoned infantrymen experienced major depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder after one combat tour to Iraq. Less than 40 percent of them had sought mental-health care.
"A Pentagon survey released last month found that 35 percent of the troops returning from Iraq had received psychological counseling during their first year home.
"That survey echoed statistics collected by the San Diego Veterans Affairs Healthcare System. The system has found that about 33 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suffer from schizophrenia, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder."

I'd be interested to see the evidence for the last number. Is it possible that, rather than 33% of Iraq and Afghan vets suffering from mental conditions, it's actually 33% of those who got out, and went for services at the VA, that had such complaints? That's not quite a random sample, since it would consist entirely of people who had medical complaints, ignoring completely those who didn't seek out care.

The article goes on to quote such unbiased sources (yes, that was sarcastic) as Senator Boxer and the National Gulf War Resource Center (known mostly for their frantic screaming about Depleted Uranium).

I realize that articles like this are part of the political debate, and journalists have a right to support one side or the other while pretending to be neutral. What torques me is how the net effect of articles like this could cause hiring managers to start thinking, "Oh, Iraq War vet... probably mentally ill" when these heroes start looking for jobs when they get out. Yes, there are people coming back who have mental health issues, but the kind of broad-brush labeling we see in this article isn't helpful at all to solving the problem -- only in providing ammunition to those who "support the troops" but never seem to be able to say anything nice about them and really mean it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

BH, the reporters got it about half right: almost all of the homegrown insurgents and foreign jihadis are mentally ill, and most of those captured and released hope to beheading back to Iraq.

For the media, that is pretty darned close.

3/19/2006 1:34 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey BH, they'll give anti anxiety andanti depressants to dependents. Not sure why the SDUT printed that article, but there is some truth to it. I just can't say that there are soldiers that are mentally ill.

ex military wife

3/19/2006 2:48 PM

Blogger OP said...

I think this is as much an indictment of modern medicine as it is the MSM. Some years ago I went to my doctor and told him I felt run down after eight months in a row of working 65 hour weeks due to forced overtime. He told me he had "just the thing" for me and started writing a prescription for Zoloft, having "diagnosed" my condition in less than three minutes as depression.

I didn't take the drug and cured myself by taking a week off.

3/19/2006 5:39 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like the same Dx I saw.

3/19/2006 9:22 PM

Blogger Chap said...

Check Amazon for Burkett's "Stolen Valor". There's a narrative that the article writer is trying to continue from Vietnam days of the defective soldier type damaged by war. it's not new, but our reaction to it might need to be.

3/19/2006 9:56 PM

Blogger CDR Salamander said...

Chap has stolen my thunder on Stolen Valor. A must read on this subject.

It is all determined by how you define your terms. Over the years, depending on the "doctor" or "sociologist" or author - I am 1-Black, 2-Hispanic, 3-Siberian/American (In'jun to you and me: feather not dot), gay, suffer from adult ADD, suffer from depression, am bi-polar, an alcoholic, have repressed memory issues, and yes, suffer from PTSD.

Who knew? (BTW, I have an ASW question for you on my blog, it comes from an article written by one of Chap's boyfriends)

3/20/2006 11:00 AM

Blogger Chap said...

I am secure in my manliness and have better pecs than Phibian anyway.

Kakesako (the ASW article author) is one of the two guys in Pearl that are on the Navy beat like the fella Bubblehead used to read from the New London Day. He was all over the Greeneville collision aftermath.

Oh, and one extra comment re the post: It's not Scottish at all!

3/20/2006 6:44 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It was articles like this and the way we were represented on TV that drove this and many other VN vets to being on SSRIs 30+ years later.
Too bad I can't sue Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather or John Kerry for character assasination.

3/20/2006 6:59 PM

Blogger basscheez said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

3/21/2006 10:14 AM

Blogger bothenook said...

i went to the DU site, and i have some serious questions about some of the accuracy.
200 mr/HR? per round? i find that number to be a little hard to take.
is it gamma? beta? alpha (which they said the du emits...) contact? a foot? a meter?
if the rad levels were 200 mr/HR alpha, i could give a rats ass less. if it's beta, i'd still be hard pressed to get too interested.
i am trying to figure out why the aircraft and the gun tubs that use du aren't posted as high rad areas at a minimum, and actually, as exclusion or grave danger areas for a full compliment of ammo.
even the gun cockers would be hard pressed to override BuMed's requirements for rad surveys and posting.
sniff, sniff. doesn't pass the stinkometer test

3/22/2006 1:54 PM


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