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US Army to Recruit More Psychiatrists to Counsel Stressed Out Soldiers

It would be spending $33 million to add about 200 mental health professionals to help soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health needs.

"As the war has gone on, PTSD and other psychological effects of war have increased," conceded Col. Elspeth Ritchie, psychiatry consultant to the Army surgeon general.

"The number of (mental health workers) that was adequate for a peacetime military is not adequate for a nation that's been at war," she said in an interview.

The new hiring, which she said could begin immediately, is part of a wider plan of action the Army has laid out to improve health care to wounded or ill veterans and their families. It also comes as the Defense Department completes a wider mental health study the latest in a series over recent months that has found services for troops have been inadequate.

Ritchie said long and repeat deployments caused by extended wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are causing more mental strain on troops. "At the time that the war began, I don't think anybody anticipated how long it would be going on," she said.

Surveys of troops in Iraq have shown that 15 percent to 20 percent of Army soldiers have signs and symptoms of post-traumatic stress, which can cause flashbacks of traumatic combat experiences and other severe reactions.

About 35 percent of soldiers are seeking some kind of mental health treatment a year after returning home under a program that screens returning troops for physical and mental health.

Only three days ago a study revealed former soldiers were twice as likely to commit suicide as people who had not seen combat.

The July issue of Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health will be reporting the work of researchers who followed up 320,000 men aged over 18 years for 12 years and found that those who had served in the armed forces at some time between 1917 and 1994.

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