Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Reservists Face More Mental Illness

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Reservists Face More Mental Illness

Article excerpt

COLORADO SPRINGS -- As U.S. troops rotate home from Iraq, the psychosocial problems they bring with them tend to differ depending upon whether they are active duty or National Guard reservists, Thomas L. Jewitt, M.D., said at a symposium on addictive disorders sponsored by Psychotherapy Associates.

Reservists as a group have a lot more problems. They're also much more likely to play them up in hopes of being excused from further military duty, according to Dr. Jewitt, a psychiatrist at the Veterans Affairs Black Hills Health Care System in Fort Meade, S.D.

National Guard members experience more psychosocial difficulties because they and their families are far less prepared for abrupt call-up and deployment than are full-time military families, he said at the meeting, which was cosponsored by the Penrose-St. Francis Healthcare System.

Reservists are subject to a heavier load of low-intensity war-related stressors that begin piling up even before they reach the combat zone. These include family worries, financial difficulties, unfulfilled obligations back home, misunderstandings about the duration of deployment, and uncertainty about their civilian job security. All of this is exacerbated by sudden immersion into the hurry-up-and-wait world of military life, with its attendant boredom and overcrowding punctuated by fear.

These low-intensity stressors have traditionally been discounted by mental health authorities. The traumatic psychiatric impact of high-intensity war-related stressors has been far more extensively studied. Of late, however, there has been growing recognition that low-level war-related stressors make a major contribution to psychopathology in veterans, Dr. Jewitt said.

Full-time military families are prepared for fathers or mothers to be absent periodically. These families have their share of problems, of course, but they also have a strong social support system. …

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