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Wounds of War

April 18, 2008

A report released yesterday by the Rand Corporation titled "Invisible Wounds of War" says that 1 in 5 soldiers, almost 300,000, who have fought in Iraq or Afghanistan have major depression or post traumatic stress disorder.

The economic cost-- including medical care, lost productivity and lost lives through suicide -- is estimated at $4 billion to $6 billion over two years, according to the Washington Post .

The 500-page report, titled "Invisible Wounds of War," says prolonged and repeated exposure to combat stress is causing a disproportionately high psychological toll compared with physical injuries. It warns of "long-term, cascading consequences" for the nation -- ranging from a greater likelihood of drug use and suicide to increased marital problems and unemployment -- if the mental health problems are left untreated.

The survey of 1,965 service members (currently serving and veterans) from across the country also reveals that only about half of those experiencing mental illnesses have sought treatment. Even fewer who have suffered head trauma have seen a doctor.

The report is the first one done outside of the government, and according to Army Surgeon General Eric Schoomaker in a New York Times article, it was welcome.

The report is not much different from numbers from studies inside of the government, but officials say it could help distinguish the stigma of mental illness in military culture and encourage change that is much needed.

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