Wednesday, November 29, 2006

a big loud shout out to:

the hartford courant

a series of articles they published (i believe it was a few months back) led to changes in the military. a step in the RIGHT direction i must say.

Mentally Unfit, Forced To FightMilitary Revamps Policy

By LISA CHEDEKEL And MATTHEW KAUFFMAN Courant Staff Writers November 28 2006
The U.S. military has issued sweeping new mental-health guidelines that expand screening for troops being sent to war and set limits on when service members with psychiatric problems can be kept in combat.The changes include a directive that troops who develop mental health problems during deployments should be sent home if their conditions do not improve significantly within two weeks of treatment.Also, service members who are prescribed psychiatric medications less than three months before deploying will be disqualified from being sent to war unless there is evidence the drugs are working and have no significant side effects.The changes - issued by Dr. William Winkenwerder Jr., the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs - are aimed at meeting a congressional mandate prompted by a May series in The Courant that exposed gaps in the military's mental health care system. The series reported that mentally troubled troops were being sent to Iraq and kept there, in some cases with fatal consequences.Winkenwerder had told The Courant last spring that he believed existing mental-health practices were adequate to meet the needs of deploying troops. But in an interview Monday, he said the new policy was an important improvement."The intent is to provide improved and more precise guidance to our clinicians, so that they can make the best possible medical decisions with respect to individuals who might have deployment-limiting psychiatric conditions," Winkenwerder said.............

............The Courant had obtained Defense Department records indicating that service members' mental illnesses were being missed or ignored during pre-deployment screenings. Some of the troops who were deployed with psychological problems later committed suicide in Iraq.The Courant also had reported that some deployed troops were being prescribed potent antidepressants without close monitoring or counseling, and that others who had exhibited clear signs of mental illness were retained in combat.Some family members of soldiers who had psychiatric problems before or during tours in Iraq said they were pleased that the military was changing the way it deals with mental illness...................

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