Press TV has conducted intervjuo with Leah Bolger, Veterans for Peace, Oregon about US military concerns for the mental health of returned soldiers from combat; and the inadequacy of institutional support.
The following is an approximate transcript of the interview.
Press TV: The comments made by Admiral Mike Mullen, are they testament to the fact that the US does not provide adequate health care and transitional facilities to veterans that are coming back from deployment in Iraq or Afghanistan?
Bolger: Well, I think that’s true I think that’s been a problem for a long time that service men and women and not receiving the adequate care they need. So, Admiral Mullen is calling for, in a very general way, saying we need to support our men and women who go into combat and help them with their mental health issues.
Press TV: Why do you think this help isn’t being provided by the government, which has made these people go and fight wars abroad?
Bolger: I think mental health has had a stigma for a long time. Soldiers that came back from World War I, World War II had the same kinds of symptoms that soldiers are experiencing now, but we didn’t call it post-traumatic stress disorder, it was called battle fatigue or shell shock – it had different names.
It’s nothing new that soldiers that go into war zones come back different people and they have mental health problems as a result of their participation in combat. But we’re just now beginning to accept it as something normal. I think with this – and this is not a shameful thing, but something that really is quite understandable when somebody is in something as traumatic as combat.
What upsets me and concerns me as a human being and as an American and just as a person of the world is that if combat is affecting soldiers in this way so that they are so severely depressed or that they are committing homicide or suicide, how must it be affecting the real victims of war – the innocent people in Afghanistan and Iraq and Pakistan and all the other countries that American military has attacked?
These are truly the victims of war who are living an ongoing trauma and yet American society seems not to be concerned about their trauma or mental health issues at all.
Press TV: Indeed that is a very pressing question you raise there.
Going back to the issue of veterans and looking at a bigger picture also, it’s not just mental health issues now is it, it’s also the fact that they find it increasingly hard to get adequate health care; they find it increasingly difficult to get jobs once they’re back.
So, it’s a system-wide flaw, wouldn’t you agree?
Bolger: Absolutely. Once again, when people go and experience combat they are changed people. So they come back and many, many people that come back from combat have difficulty returning to a civilian life.
They find that their relationships with their family are no longer solid; there are much higher incidents of alcohol and drug abuse; homelessness; unemployment – These kinds of problems escalate dramatically after people have been in combat.
And so what this says to me is that combat is not a natural thing, it doesn’t come naturally to people and so when that happens they are altered in a negative way and they find it very, very difficult to re-acclimate.