Study: Anxiety, Depression, Acute Stress in Combat Troops

May 5th, 2007 - by admin

CNN & Ewen MacAskill / The Guardian – 2007-05-05 08:32:23

Study: Anxiety, Depression, Acute Stress in Combat Troops

WASHINGTON (May 5, 2007) — The latest Pentagon survey assessing the mental health of troops in Iraq found one-third of soldiers and Marines in high levels of combat report anxiety, depression and acute stress.

The survey also dealt with ethical attitudes on the battlefield.

A key finding was that more than a third of soldiers and Marines reported that torture should be allowed to save the life of a comrade.

Fewer than half of the US soldiers and Marines in Iraq would report a comrade for unethical behavior, according to the results of the survey by the Defense Department’s Mental Health Advisory Team.

The survey of more than 1,300 soldiers and nearly 450 Marines was conducted last year. It was the fourth in a series of surveys on troops’ mental health but the first to include Marines and the first to look at ethics in Iraq. (Read the report)

While fewer than half of the troops agreed that “all noncombatants should be treated with dignity and respect,” a quarter of those surveyed said, “I would risk my own safety to save a noncombatant in danger.”

When mistreatment of noncombatants was reported, the most common behavior was cursing or verbal insults (28 percent of soldiers and 30 percent of Marines). Physical abuse was reported by 4 percent of soldiers and 7 percent of Marines.

The survey found the death of a team member led to an increase in ethics violations.

Soldiers who deployed more than six months or multiple times were more likely to screen positive for a mental health issue, the survey found.

“Effective small unit leadership” — or when officers closest to the troops did a good job — promoted better mental health, according to the survey.

Results concerning combat stress in the latest survey were similar to those from a more extensive study of veterans who sought care from the Department of Veterans Affairs after returning from combat in Iraq or Afghanistan. (Full story)

In that study, published in the March 12 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine and carried out by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, and the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, 31 percent of more than 100,000 veterans studied were diagnosed with mental or psychological problems.

Post-traumatic stress disorder was the most common condition reported, affecting 13 percent of all Iraq or Afghanistan veterans who sought VA services, according to the study.

That’s slightly less than the 15.2 percent tallied for veterans of the Vietnam War, but far above the 3.5 percent reported in the general population.

US Military: Top al Qaeda in Iraq Figures Killed
The US military said Friday it had confirmed the identities of two more senior al Qaeda in Iraq leaders killed this week during an operation near Taji, Iraq.

The military identified the men as Sabah Hilal al-Shihawi, the religious adviser to Muharib Abdul Latif al-Jubouri, and Abu Ammar al-Masri, a foreign fighter facilitator.

Both terrorists were identified by associates at the site, according to the military.

On Thursday, the military said al-Jubouri was killed in the same raid in which al-Shihawi and al-Masri died. Al-Jubouri was the senior minister of information for al Qaeda in Iraq. (

Other Developments

• Insurgents killed five US soldiers and an Iraqi interpreter in separate attacks Thursday and Friday, the US military said. Since the start of the war, 3,354 US troops have been killed; seven civilian contractors of the Defense Department also have died.

• Sixteen unidentified bodies were found Friday in Baghdad, the Iraqi Interior Ministry said. Slain bodies are dumped across the Iraqi capital every day, although fewer have been found since a new security crackdown began in February.

• US-led coalition raids Friday in Baghdad’s Sadr City led to the arrests of 16 “suspected terrorists,” part of a cell thought to have links to Iran, the US military said.

• Five Iraqi police were killed and two others were wounded when a roadside bomb targeting their patrol detonated Friday in western Baghdad’s Amel neighborhood, an Iraqi Interior Ministry official said.

• A car bomb killed three civilians and wounded three dozen in an attack Thursday in the oil-rich city of Kirkuk in northern Iraq, the US military said Friday.

• Iraqi security forces detained a former military officer from Saddam Hussein’s regime and an associate Thursday in Tikrit, Hussein’s ancestral homeland, the US military said. The two are suspected of being involved in “corrupt activities” in the Salaheddin province city, the military said. Two suspected insurgents were captured with them, the military said.

CNN’s Jomana Karadsheh and Barbara Starr contributed to this report.

Iraq War Strain Leads Troops to
Abuse Civilians, Survey Shows

Ewen MacAskill / The Guardian

WASHINGTON (May 5, 2007) — One in 10 of the US soldiers in Iraq mistreats civilians or damages their property, according to a survey published by the Pentagon last night. The report said the mental health of soldiers and marines deteriorated significantly as a result of extended or multiple deployments.

The study confirms the extent to which the US military is being strained by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The survey into the mental health of the soldiers and marines was requested by US commanders in Iraq and carried out by the office of the surgeon-general in August and October, with 1,300 soldiers and 450 marines interviewed.

The report says: “Approximately 10% of soldiers and marines report mistreating non-combatants (damaged/destroyed Iraqi property when not necessary or hit/kicked a non-combatant when not necessary).

“Soldiers that have high levels of anger, experienced high levels of combat, or screened positive for a mental health problem were nearly twice as likely to mistreat non-combatants as those who had low levels of anger or combat or screened negative for a mental health problem.”

The report also found that fewer than half of all soldiers and marines would report a team member for unethical behaviour, and more than one-third believed torture should be allowed to save the life of a fellow soldier or marine.

There are about 150,000 US troops in Iraq. Many have been complaining in emails and blogs about President George Bush’s decision this year to extend deployment from one year to 15 months as part of an attempt to pacify Baghdad and Anbar province.

The Pentagon this week imposed restrictions on internet postings from war zones, and claimed it was because of the risk of providing sensitive information to insurgents.

Blogs and emails from troops in the field can often be extraordinarily vivid and indiscreet.

One report last weekend from a soldier in Iraq advised a trooper in the US who was about to deploy in Iraq on ways to watch for and detect explosive devices planted by insurgents.

Reacting to the ban, soldiers said that the real reason for the curb was their negative comments about the war, including scepticism about Mr Bush’s claims about progress.

Soldiers in the field and former soldiers, in blogs posted on sites such as Black Five, an unofficial site run by former paratrooper Matthew Burden, said the regulations would be inoperable, with most troops obeying the rules but dissidents finding ways round the ban.

Mr Burden, editor of The Blog of War, a book pulling together accounts from the field, criticised the decision: “No more military bloggers writing about their experiences in the combat zone. This is the best PR the military has – its most honest voice out of the war zone.

“And it’s being silenced.”

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