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Children of Soldiers Aren't Having Mental Health Needs Fulfilled

Discussion in 'News, Politics & Debates' started by goingonhope, Aug 13, 2007.

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  1. goingonhope

    goingonhope Member Premium Member

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    Children of Soldiers Aren’t Having Mental Health Needs Fulfilled

    By Raquel Rutledge

    Aug. 9, 07

    It’s in a bundle of wet bedsheets on the floor of a 5-year-old boy’s room. It’s in the diaries of dozens of girls at a summer camp.

    Anyone who spends time around the children of American troops can see it. There is depression, anxiety, anger, defiance, nightmares and other sleeping problems. There are headaches, stomachaches, high blood pressure and more.
    The military recognizes the importance of families more than ever, but experts both in and outside the military say that not nearly enough is being done to ensure that children of soldiers remain mentally healthy.

    “Unequivocally and enthusiastically, ‘No,’ ” said Charles Figley, a psychologist at Florida State University who has studied the effects of combat on soldiers and families. “It’s really disgraceful.”

    Two recent and comprehensive studies support Figley’s view. A Defense Department mental health task force commissioned by Congress spent a year reviewing research, gathering public testimony, and visiting 38 military installations throughout the world to assess the mental health needs of troops and their families and the services being offered.

    The key finding: “The military health system lacks the fiscal resources and the fully trained personnel to fulfill its mission to support psychological health” — not only of soldiers but also their families, during peace and war, according to the report, which was released in June.

    Children had “particularly constrained” access to mental health treatment, the task force found, adding that “parents frequently reported 2- to 6-month waits for their children’s initial appointment with a psychiatrist.”

    Many military psychologists are deployed overseas, creating larger caseloads for those left stateside. Many, too, are leaving the military, citing the strain of repeated and protracted deployments on family life. The number of mental health professionals in the Air Force, for example, dropped 20 percent from 2003 to 2007.

    Families referred to civilian care often find that providers will not accept Tricare, the military’s insurance plan, because of its low reimbursements.

    The task force gave the Defense Department until December to create a plan to improve the situation.

    Another study, released in draft form in February, noted several civilian and military programs designed specifically for military children but said that “the efforts do not appear to be well coordinated or widely disseminated.”

    -----------------------------------------------------------------

    Parents serve, children react
    MILWAUKEE | As countless reports emerge about the lack of proper care for the troops, civilian and military specialists agree that not nearly enough is being done to protect their children.

    Several factors make the situation especially concerning, experts say:

    •More than 155,000 U.S. children have at least one parent deployed in support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In all, as many as 700,000 have a parent who has been deployed since the start of the wars.

    •A child whose parent has post-traumatic stress disorder often will mimic the symptoms, experts say. About 25 percent of returning troops have been diagnosed or have symptoms consistent with the disorder.

    •The rate of child abuse and neglect in military families doubled in the period after widespread deployments to the Middle East, from the time before intensive deployments.

    •Studies link depression, anxiety and emotional disorders in children to a parent’s deployment.

    At school

    Barbara Critchfield shook as she practiced writing the name on paper.

    Should it read, “In Memory of?” Or maybe, “In Honor of?”
    She hated that she had to write the name at all, although she knew she would have to write one someday.

    She had written names on blue and silver stars. Those were easier. Those were the names of military moms and dads deployed in support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Several hundred already covered the walls at Shoemaker High School, at the doorstep of Fort Hood, the largest U.S. military installation.

    But not the gold.

    The gold carried the names of those killed.

    To Critchfield, a seasoned counselor at Shoemaker High, those names were like family. She was a surrogate mom or dad.

    Unlike their peers across the country who could escape the wars with a click of a remote, Critchfield’s students were tethered. The parents of more than 80 percent were fighting in the wars.

    Critchfield understood clearly what that meant.
    She had seen a teenage girl crumple and make sorrowful sounds that words can’t describe when told that her dad wouldn’t be coming home.

    She was there the morning that Rohan Osbourne, 14, came to school and told his teacher that he thought he was going to have a bad day.

    The teacher jokingly asked: “Why? Did the dog eat your homework?” Rohan explained that he had learned that morning that his mom had been killed over the weekend.
    “These kids didn’t enlist,” Critchfield said, “but they are sacrificing in ways you cannot even imagine.”

    Source: The Kansas City Star & Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
     
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