War and Economy Take Toll on Kids' Mental Health

Filed under: Medical Conditions, In The News, Special Needs

sad girl

Military children suffer through war and recession. Photo: sxc.hu

According to the Pentagon, 2003 saw about one million children of U.S. military troops seek outpatient mental care. By 2008, that number had doubled. What happened in those fives years to lead so many more children to seek help?

What happened, according to experts, was the invasion and ongoing occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan coupled with the country's economic recession. With military personnel serving repeated tours of duty while those back home struggle to make ends meet, the children of our troops are clearly feeling the strain.

"Army families are stretched, and they are stressed," Sheila Casey, wife of the U.S. Army chief of staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr., told a congressional panel last month "And I have often referred to them as the most brittle part of the force."Anecdotal evidence suggests that not only are more military kids under professional mental health care, an increasing number of them are now taking medication for depression and anxiety. In addition, an increase has also been noted in the number of military kids hospitalized with mental health diagnoses. Those numbers went up from 35,000 to 55,000 during that same five-year period, with a majority of the increase coinciding with the surge of additional troops last year.

Unfortunately, at a time when mental-health services are needed more than ever, there is a shortage of professionals to treat those who need it. But according to an MSNBC news report, an effort is being made to encourage a sharing of resources among the military, the Department of Veterans Affairs and state and local agencies. Military spouses are also being urged to enter the health care fields.

In the meantime, we can only wait and see what goes on with these children. "If it continues to happen, you have to wonder how this is affecting them," says Patrica Baron, a military spouse and head of the National Military Family Association's youth initiatives. "In the long run, you have to wonder if there isn't going to be detrimental effects that might hang on for a long period of time."

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