It is essential that the Department of Defense not only maintain, but improve military mental health services even in the face of the drawdown (TNT, 1-22).
Since World War II there has been an increasing shift to more psychological injuries than physical injuries. However, these injuries have not been treated on equal par with physical injuries. Untreated, psychological injuries can lead to poor adjustment, substance abuse and suicide.
Between 2010 and 2014, the Institute of Medicine repeatedly recommended increased accountability, coordination and standardization to improve military mental health. Currently, each service branch has its own policies and procedures for mental health; little coordination occurs between service branches or with Veterans Affairs.
Lack of coordination and standardization greatly complicates a seamless transition from active duty to VA and leaves many soldiers struggling to find treatment.
After every war, the Surgeon General has recommended improved services for soldiers with psychological wounds. These “lessons of war” have not been learned or implemented. Now is the time for the U.S. military to prepare for psychological casualties and never again go to war grossly unprepared to manage psychological injuries.
(Russell is a retired Navy commander.)