A lot of studies have been done on the effects of the Iraq war in the US. Much emphasis has been placed on the economic downturns that the country has been subjected to. However, there is an even more intense repercussion of the war; its health effects. Considerable evidence points to the fact that American soldiers from Iraq report high cases of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is therefore imperative to analyze the severity of this problem and to look for ways in which the problem can be solved.
Evidence on PTSD among US soldiers
The essay shall focus on a study conducted by Hoge et al (2004). The latter authors found it necessary to asses the mental health conditions of US soldiers after the Iraq war owing to the fact that most mental health studies conducted amongst soldiers were usually done years after the war had taken place.
Consequently, participants had minimal recollection of the events and it therefore became difficult to get to the root of the problem. Furthermore, studies conducted years after wars have occurred also impede the necessary changes required to reduce these mental health problems. Through their studies, the latter authors were able to nip the problem in the bud. They did this by examining soldiers straight from deployment.
Hoge et al (2004) first started with a survey of soldiers who has just been assigned to Iraq before commencing duty. They did the same with soldiers who had just been deployed to Afghanistan. Their aim was to compare the mental health status of these two categories of soldiers. It was also necessary to use a control and this was done by obtaining data from the Marine Corps.
The survey involved a total of two thousand, five hundred and thirty soldiers. Almost half of them -1962- represented soldiers before deployment while the remaining number represented soldiers after the war. The researchers were careful to survey the soldiers one week before their deployment. Those who were asked questions after their service were given time to settle in and seek medical help. They interviewed them four months after returning.
Before conducting the survey, the researchers were quick to explain to the respective soldiers about the purpose of the survey. They were also clear about the survey’s voluntary nature and how it was to be conducted. The research managed to obtain a very high response rate i.e. ninety eight percent. Additionally, the survey also adhered to sampling principles by ensuring that participants represented the over all population. This was done by comparing demographic characteristics of participants with the existing cases. (Hoge et al, 2004)
The survey checked for numbers of mental disorders. However, PSTD was analyzed against the backdrop of the indicators set up by the country’s authority on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Care was taken to ensure that only the symptoms brought on by the Iraq war were recorded and little attention was given to any other scenario.
Participants’ Post Traumatic Stress level disorder was aggregated and compared against a total of eight five. Those candidates who recorded a performance of greater than fifty were considered as serious cases of PSTD while those who had fewer score were considered as normal. Since the symptoms were seventeen, it may not be plausible to note all of them down in this paper. However, the symptoms can be categorized under three groups i.e.:
- Avoidance symptoms
- Intrusion symptom
- Also, alcohol abuse was an indicator
Results of the study
It was found that a substantial portion of the participants from Iraq recorded higher Post traumatic Stress Disorder than those ones from Afghanistan. It was also found that American soldiers recorded significantly higher levels of post Traumatic stress disorder after their service at war than before the war. Additionally, a large number of them recorded increased alcohol abuse in the process. Consequently, most of them spiraled into a depressive state. (Hoge et al, 2004)
The research also found that the number of participants who took part in the survey reported a strong correlation between their Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and the experiences they had to go through. The following were cited as some of the possible causes of the PTSD by the participants
- Killing people
- Handling dead persons
- Having the knowledge that a colleague had been killed
- Being shot
Hoge et al (2004) also established a pattern that linked exposure to fire fights with prevalence of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The latter plotted the number of firefighters that soldiers had been subjected to against the prevalence of post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It was found that the relationship was linear. Consequently, the two factors are strongly related. The researchers also plotted a graph of rate of PTSD against claims of injuries or being wounded. It was also found that there was a relationship. The amount of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder increased with a state of being wounded or injuries. (Hoge et al, 2004)
The research also gave in-depth insight into the nature of soldier’s perceptions about Post Traumatic Disorder. It was found that a substantial number of them were not interested in receiving help for their problem. Only thirty eight percent of them asserted that they would seek psychiatric help. Additionally, only twenty eight percent of the respondents asserted that they had sought help. When asked why they behaved in that manner, they cited stigmatization and lack of access to mental health care.
Implications of the research
The research found that soldiers from Iraq reported higher cases of post Traumatic Disorder than those ones from Afghanistan. One possible explanation of this is that the intensity of violence or traumatizing activities was much higher in Iraq than it was in Afghanistan.
It was also found that there was a relationship between the existence of injury and prevalence of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This finding affirms what has been found in other studies concerning wars; that soldiers who have received physical injuries are more likely than those who left unharmed to exhibit PTSD.
Since the research encompassed participants who represented similar demographic traits as the overall population, then it is safe to transfer these findings to the entire population of US soldiers in Iraq. However, the findings in this report are not without fault. They were obtained from soldiers who were not severely deformed as the latter category had been prohibited from taking part in the survey. Additionally, the research was also limited by the fact that soldiers who had been sent away by the government could not take part in the process. Consequently, the research could not incorporate the opinions of the latter groups. (Hoge et al, 2004)
Nonetheless, this does not undermine the overall usefulness of this survey. Findings from this research can be considered fairly accurate owing to the fact their measurements were well placed. For instance, the authors chose an ample time to survey the soldiers. This was four months after their experience in Iraq. Statistics show that most people depict Post Traumatic Stress disorder around three months after the traumatic event has occurred.
Consequently, by choosing to interview them, four months after the war, then the researchers’ findings can be deemed as fairly accurate. Also their findings are reliable because their PSTD measurements before the war concurred with usual occurrences in other populations. They found that only five percent of the soldiers had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder before the war. This was in line with prevailing rates in the American population. This was a green light that further measurements were being done accurately.
The research also found that those soldiers with Post Traumatic Stress disorder refrained from seeking medical assistance due to the fact that they feared stigmatization from other soldiers. This was even worse for those soldiers who really needed the assistance. This reason was the major force behind low psychiatric assistance for this problem. This implies that certain interventions need to be put in place to curb such fears. There are a number of ways in which stakeholders can tackle this problem of stigmatization. (Hoge et al, 2004)
First of all, they could choose to educate members of the military about the issue of stigmatization. They should also change their health models so as to allow greater anonymity in mental health issues. They could ensure that counseling is done confidentially so as to prevent these cases of low treatment fro Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Besides the latter, health services within the military ought to look for a way of addressing the issue of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Screening. As it is currently, most soldiers are only subjected to checks for depression but no PSTD checks are in place. Since this is such a severe problem, then it should be given precedence. (Hoge et al, 2004)
The paper was examining the prevalence of Post traumatic stress Disorder among soldiers from Iraq. It was found that there was a considerably high prevalence rate among these soldiers. PSTD was closely linked to the nature of a soldiers’ experience; i.e. those who had engaged in numerous firefights and also those who had been exposed to greater military activity.
It was also found that most of the soldiers who needed help the most did not seek it because they feared stigmatization from their colleagues. Possible solutions to these include; sensitization, anonymous counseling and rigorous testing for Post Traumatic Disorder. By instituting these changes then future military personnel will be greatly assisted.
Hoge, C., Castro, C., Messer, S., Mc Gurk, D., Cotting, D. & Koffman R. (2004): Combat Duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, Vol. 351, No. 13, p 13-28