Thomas Donnelly of the American Enterprise Institute has an opinion piece in today’s Wall Street Journal on one of the newer “progressive” plans to classify wide swaths of the American population as “victims” in need of expensive treatments funded by taxpayer dollars which flow to the progressives’ allies in the medical and counselling industries — just another aspect of a general scheme that might be termed the “victimology industry.”
The piece, “The Military Epidemics That Aren’t,” debunks progressive claims of an “epidemic” of post-traumatic stress disorder afflicting current and former members of the military. No subscription is required to read it. Here are some highlights.:
Soldiers, in this view, are no longer seen as models of self-control, courage and patriotism. Instead they are victims and should be treated as patients. Yet the links between combat, the military and mental health are more complex than the war-as-disease construct allows.
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A major study published this month in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that factors such as substance abuse, depression, financial and relationship problems accounted for the rise in soldier suicide — in other words, the same factors that influence civilians to take their own lives. “The findings from this study,” the authors concluded, “are not consistent with the assumption that specific deployment-related characteristics, such as length of deployment, number of deployments, or combat experiences, are directly associated with increased suicide risk.”
Nor does the rate of military suicides differ significantly from suicides in the general population. Using data from 2009, another study by the U.S. Army and the National Institute of Mental Health calculated the military suicide rate at 18.5 per 100,000, just below the civilian rate of 18.8 per 100,000.
. . . Yet, with hundreds of millions if not billions of health-care dollars per year at stake, the rush toward more treatments, therapies and medications for veterans is accelerating. Something like a “PTSD industry” — and an accompanying and powerful political lobby — has sprung up over the last decade. Our feelings of appreciation for military service, perhaps mixed with more than a little guilt, may be overruling better judgment.
Combat stress is a complex phenomenon. But research has confirmed what military commanders have long known: It is possible to identify those who are most prone to stress problems, and that has more to do with nonmilitary issues — again, substance abuse, money and family problems are the culprits — than with the experience of combat or deployment to a war zone.
Compared with other countries, the United States diagnoses PTSD cases at improbably high rates. Recent PTSD rates in the U.S. have reached as high as 30%, according to the Congressional Budget Office. By contrast, only 2% of Danish soldiers deployed to Afghanistan (and, per capita, the Danes have done as much fighting as anyone) are diagnosed with significant PTSD symptoms, according to a study published in December in Psychological Science. One consequence of high rates of PTSD diagnosis is that the treatment is too often conducted outside a military environment. Soldiers are deprived of what traditionally has been the best medicine: talking to other soldiers.
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[W]ar demands unflinching discipline, courage and loyalty in the presence of our deepest animal passions, and in that sense it is anything but dehumanizing. By regarding soldiers, sometimes condescendingly, as victims and patients, we are in danger of foisting our own, very civilian and very modern, therapeutic pathologies on people who don’t need them and whose ability to do their jobs — that is, keep us safe — is likely to be diminished.
Stars and Stripes, Aug. 6: “Study: Deployments not reason for increase in military suicides.”
New York Times, Aug. 6: “Deployment Factors Are Not Related to Rise in Military Suicides, Study Finds.”