Thomas Insel — director of the National Institute of Mental Health and the U.S. government’s top psychiatric researcher — said today that “the number of suicides among veterans of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may exceed the combat death toll because of inadequate mental health care.” Bloomberg reports:
Insel echoed a Rand Corporation study published last month that found about 20 percent of returning U.S. soldiers have post-traumatic stress disorder or depression, and only half of them receive treatment. About 1.6 million U.S. troops have fought in the two wars since October 2001, the report said. About 4,560 soldiers had died in the conflicts as of today, the Defense Department reported on its Web site.
Based on those figures and established suicide rates for similar patients who commonly develop substance abuse and other complications of post-traumatic stress disorder, “it’s quite possible that the suicides and psychiatric mortality of this war could trump the combat deaths,” Insel said.