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Mental Health Caucus Hosts Briefing on Military Mental Health

May 12, 2011
Press Release

(Washington, DC) Today, Rep. Grace F. Napolitano and Rep. Tim Murphy of the Congressional Mental Health Caucus hosted military mental health officials and family members to update congressional members and staff on mental health issues in the armed forces, including traumatic brain injuries, suicide prevention, post-traumatic stress, and stigma against seeking treatment.

“Our soldiers have earned the right to mental health care from their service to our country, and we must ensure they get the assistance they need,” Napolitano said. “Combat in Iraq and Afghanistan often causes mental wounds that are just as serious as physical ones. When our veterans finally return home, these invisible injuries can have a devastating effect on them and their families.”

“Out of 2 million American combat soldiers deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan over the past ten years, approximately 380,000 have come home with traumatic brain injury,” Murphy said. “In addition, 27 per cent of service members returning from war have demonstrated signs of depression or have reported symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. These are the signature wounds of the War on Terror. It is critically important that our federally elected officials are educated on these growing figures, and the appropriate ways to care for the veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan and their families.”

Since October of 2001, more than 2,100 military service members have died from suicide.

“We have done a lot, but we have not done enough,” said Gen. Peter Chiarelli, Vice Chief of Staff for the U.S. Army. “The stigma against mental health in the military is still everywhere. Until we are willing to take on that stigma, we will never get a chance to heal.”

“When I came back, the physical problems paled in comparison to the mental problems I had to deal with,” said Col. Gregory Gadson, Director of the U.S. Army Wounded Warrior Program and a bomb blast survivor who now walks with the use of prosthetic limbs. “The entire family has to heal, not just the soldier.”

“When my husband first came home, I could see it in his eyes that he was not the same person,” said Sheri Hall, a military spouse. “He did not want to go get help because it might jeopardize his career.”

“Our family still struggles daily with the psychological wounds,” said Regina Hill, a military spouse. “When people thank my husband for his service, I just wish they’d stop and recognize the sacrifice of our children. My children are now caregivers first, and kids second.”

“Military service members and their families have earned the right to effective mental health services,” Napolitano said. “We owe them the healing and support they need to return their lives to some semblance of normalcy.”

National Mental Health Crisis Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK