A new study has come out from researchers in San Francisco, on Iraq War veterans. The study suggests that more discussion of killing, may help veterans cope with an array of mental health problems after their wartime experience.
This is no surprise to those of us of the Vietnam War generation. We’ve long known that Vietnam vets seemed to find comfort in having interaction with other Vietnam vets. Unfortunately, from my experience, much of that bonding time included consumption of massive amounts of alcohol, or other substances. This of course, can be very hard on families.
The study was published last week in the Journal of Traumatic Stress, and found that soldiers who reported having killed in combat, or who gave orders that led to killing, were more likely to report the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, alcohol abuse, anger and relationships problems.
The study was based on data from health assessments conducted on about 2,800 soldiers who returned from Iraq in 2005 and 2006. Shira Maquen, a pyschologist at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and principal investigator of the study said the results show that the topic of killing needs to be addressed more explicitly in treatment plans.
This could include discussions of killing in public forums and in private treatment, and would help reduce stigma and shame.
Ms. Maguen said the study was the first to look into the links between killing and the mental health problems of Iraq veterans. She asserts that “We need as a culture to find ways to not blame soldiers who are ashamed of killing.”
Isn’t it surprising that it’s taken this long to come to this conclusion?