Sunday, July 27, 2008

Navy, Marine Corps conference focuses on disabling stresses of war

From the North County Times in southern California:

Confronted with rising rates of suicide and post-traumatic stress disorder among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, hundreds of Marine and Navy officers meet in San Diego next month to address ways to limit war-born physical and psychological damage.

The officers, along with military and civilian medical specialists, are meeting Aug. 12-14 at the Manchester Grand Hyatt to discuss the latest treatments for troops suffering as result of their combat experience.

The conference also will focus on the children and spouses of troops who have been disabled by post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury.

In its first-ever such conference last year, Marine Corps leaders vowed to eliminate an institutional mind--set that prevented some troops from seeking help for stress-related problems.

This year's "Combat Operational Stress Control Conference" includes updates on what service leaders have done in the months since last year's inaugural symposium in Washington.

The effort comes as rates of suicide and post-traumatic stress disorder among Marines continue to rise, nearly seven years after the invasion of Afghanistan and more than five years after the invasion of Iraq. Through June of this year, 25 Marines have committed suicide, a pace that would surpass the rate of 16.5 suicides per 100,000 troops reported by the service in 2007.

From 1996 through 2006, the suicide rate per 100,000 troops was 14.3 percent.

Between March 2003 and April 2007, the Marine Corps diagnosed 5,714 cases of post-traumatic stress disorder, according to figures provided by the service. And in April, the Rand Corporation released a study contending that nearly 20 percent of all service members ---- approximately 300,000 troops ---- have reported suffering from symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder or major depression.