Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Children's Mental Health and War

Thomas Riggins

We all know what happens to many of our troops when they return home after fighting one of the Pentagon's dirty wars overseas. Who can forget what happened to thousands of the Vietnam vets after they returned home from a useless and criminal war fought as a result of the government's lies about what caused it and that we had to go for the sake of our freedom and security.

The vets were provided with inadequate medical care, many committed suicide, their families broke up, thousands became homeless, derelict and drug addicted and alcoholic suffering with mental problems and posttraumatic stress syndrome and lacked adequate care and mental health counselling to help them recover from all the horror, killings and massacres they had been ordered to participate in. And all for what-- so that part of the cost of war could recouped on their backs so that the rich wouldn't have to pay more taxes.

So we know what the government and the Pentagon does to many of its troops when it is done with them. The same thing is now happening to thousands of the young men and women returning from the same types of unjust and aggressive adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan. We should not be surprised-- we have seen it all before and we will again if the peace movement does not galvanize more of us into action.

But now we are finding out, from new scientific surveys, that the government is not only willing to sacrifice thousands of veterans on the alter of capitalist greed and expansionism over its resource wars, but their children as well. ScienceDaily reports ("Length of Parental Military Deployment Associated with Children's Mental Health Diagnoses, Study Finds, July 4, 2011) that the children of soldiers deployed in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) [why does the military always name their actions the opposite of what they are?] for longer times were more likely to have mental health issues that those whose parents were not deployed.

We have known for a long time that children of soldiers deployed in our imperialist wars are more likely than others to have mental problems but this study brings us up to date on our recent conflicts. The authors say "As troops face dynamic and evolving threats (e.g., an increasingly sophisticated array of roadside explosive devices) the need to anticipate the psychological consequences for their children and to offer timely intervention becomes increasingly important."

The roadside bombs are only one threat to our troops, and not the most deadly. The most deadly is the US Congress that abdicates its responsibility and duty to only authorize military engagements against real threats to the US, instead of caving in to the imperial presidency and the war lobby representing the defense industry and those who who make mega profits out of US involvements overseas. These wars for private profit at public expense are the real threat to our troops who are shipped overseas in bad faith not to fight for the country but for Daddy Warbucks and associates.

The study was conducted by Alyssa J. Mansfield, PhD of the National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PSD) and colleagues and involved 307,520 children 5 to 17 years old: 51,355 were found to have mental health issues: "most often for stress disorders , depression, behavioral problems, and sleep disorders."

These were the numbers for children with at least one active duty parent. Now in the subset of at least one parent deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan, the study found that the longer the deployment or redeployment the more likely a mental problem would be found in a child.

The study turned up 6,579 children of parents from OIF and OEF deployments who were diagnosed for "acute stress reaction and adjustment disorders, depressive disorders, and behavioral disorders." The more the parent was deployed, the worse the diagnosis for the child in general. "Similar to findings among military spouses, prolonged deployment appears to be taking a mental health toll on children."

There is clearly a problem. The military has a simple solution. Either don't deploy soldiers who have children to combat zones or do not allow people with children to join the arm services in the first place. What is more important killing people overseas, or being killed by them, or having happy mentally healthy children (and adults) at home. I'm afraid we all know the answer to that one.

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