Between 2000 and 2012, 159,107 "active component service members" experienced 192,317 "mental disorder hospitalizations," according to the July 2013 issue of the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center's Medical Surveillance Monthly Report (MSMR). The report in this special "Mental Health Issue" points out that "mental disorders are the only illness/injury category for which hospitalization rates have markedly increased during the first 11 years of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
In an introductory editorial, Richard F. Stoltz, PhD (CAPT, USN), of the Defense Centers of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury (DCoE), says:
This month’s edition of the MSMR highlights the stark reality that “war is hell.” Forceful and intense physical and mental stress is a natural result. If “the lessons of the last war are almost always ignored in the next war…” as historian Eric T. Dean, Jr. implies, then the last 12 years could very well result in long-term mental health disabilities for thousands of heroes who have courageously ventured into harm’s way.
Though our military and civilian health care system has a much broader understanding of the common struggles endured after a decade of unconventional warfare, the journey is not yet complete. The demand to continuously improve our knowledge and methods to effectively prepare, screen, diagnose and treat service members with mental health concerns will persist long after all of our nation’s heroes have returned home.