Fearing stigma, US soldiers hide mental problems
A majority of US soldiers who have done tours of duty in Iraq or Afghanistan say they suffer from stress-related troubles linked to their deployments, a study showed Wednesday, the AFP reported.
But most keep their psychological problems to themselves for fear of being stigmatized or seeing their careers take a nose-dive, the study conducted by Harris Interactive for the American Psychiatric Association (APA) showed.
Nearly six in 10 US military members said their deployment in a war zone has caused them to suffer from "negative experiences" associated with stress.
But a mere 10 percent have sought treatment for mental health concerns, according to the study, which surveyed 347 members of the US military and their spouses.
Just over 60 percent said they avoided seeking help for mental health problems because they feared doing so would impact negatively on their career.
Fifty-three percent said they felt others would think less of them if they were to seek help for psychological troubles resulting from their deployment.
Two-thirds of military members said they rarely, if ever, talk about their mental health with family and friends.
Nearly half (48 percent) of the soldiers said they had difficulty sleeping, half reported feeling depressed, and one-third reported a lack of interest in daily activities, the study showed.
All of those problems are symptomatic of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which, along with major depression and traumatic brain injury, afflict nearly one in five of the 1.6 million US soldiers who have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to a separate study released by the RAND Corporation earlier this month.
In the APA study, around two-thirds of military spouses said running a home alone while their partner was deployed caused them stress, and more than half reported stress related to being a single parent while the soldier-spouse was at war.
Nearly twice as many poll respondents - 65 percent - said they were unfamiliar with the warning signs of mental health problems that might result from being in a war zone as those who said they knew what to look for - 35 percent.
The mental injuries US soldiers are bringing back from Iraq and Afghanistan have been dubbed the "invisible wounds" of war.
The RAND Corporation study estimated the cost of treating soldiers diagnosed with PTSD or depression in the first two years following their return from Iraq or Afghanistan at up to 6.2 billion dollars.