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Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Invisible Cost of War

It appears, according to a RAND study as reported in Raw Story, that we can look forward to over 600,000 military personnel suffering TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) or PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) or both, as a result of the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq.

According to the article, fewer than half have ever had head injuries evaluated by a doctor, and only slightly more than half have sought help for PTSD.

Of course, the TBI numbers (currently 300,000) might be much lower if the Bush Misadministration hadn't sourced inferior helmets to protect the brains of the people it sent into harm's way. Caveat: Requires login.

The article states, regarding the study:
The report is titled "Invisible Wounds of War: Psychological and Cognitive Injuries, Their Consequences, and Services to Assist Recovery." It was sponsored by a grant from the California Community Foundation and done by 25 researchers from RAND Health and the RAND National Security Research Division, which also has done does work under contracts with the Pentagon and other defense agencies as well as allied foreign governments and foundations.
Over a year ago, we noticed that the TBI numbers were high, and blogged it. As most people know, TBI comes in two flavours, mild and severe, and both have serious long-term implications and painful costs. Here, a description of mild TBI:
the individual has cognitive problems such as headache, difficulty thinking, memory problems, attention deficits, mood swings and frustration. These injuries are commonly overlooked. Even though this type of TBI is called "mild", the effect on the family and the injured person can be devastating.
Symptoms include:

    * Fatigue
    * Headaches
    * Visual disturbances
    * Memory loss
    * Poor attention/concentration
    * Sleep disturbances
    * Dizziness/loss of balance
    * Irritability-emotional disturbances
    * Feelings of depression
    * Seizures
    * Nausea
    * Loss of smell
    * Sensitivity to light and sounds
    * Mood changes
    * Getting lost or confused
    * Slowness in thinking

These symptoms may not be present or noticed at the time of injury. They may be delayed days or weeks before they appear. The symptoms are often subtle and are often missed by the injured person, family and doctors.

The person looks normal and often moves normal in spite of not feeling or thinking normal. This makes the diagnosis easy to miss. Family and friends often notice changes in behavior before the injured person realizes there is a problem. Frustration at work or when performing household tasks may bring the person to seek medical care.

For symptoms of severe TBI, look here.

These symptoms do not bode well for the 300,000 or so Americans who are suffering them. Especially as Boy George continues to gut the VA. When you have a significant number of people in the population who are trained to view problems as amenable to the application of force, and these people are suffering symptoms that include irritability, inability to concentrate, memory loss, and the like, their prospects for long-term gainful employment are, necessarily, small. Their ability to provide for themselves, whether in the sense of basic necessities such as grocery shopping, cooking, making and keeping medical appointments, and the like, or in more sophisticated ways such as undertaking job training or further education, meeting goals, career planning, are affected.

Goodness knows there have been many days over the past eight years when those of us with uninjured brains and untraumatized spirits have wanted to choke the living shit out of all and sundry as we watch our jobs disappear, our wages fall, our homes foreclosed, our bank and retirement accounts and benefits shrink, and the dollar sink to new and terrifying lows.

Imagine you're a newly returned injured and traumatized veteran of a war you still can't figure out, except that you know it was based on lies. And all these things that are happening to the general populace are also happening to you, except thanks to your newly damaged bits, they're harder for you to deal with. And you have no job or no job prospects, and the VA denies your health care and contests your disability. And you don't want to tell anyone that you're having all these problems because you might not be able to get a job, which you need in order to stay alive. And you probably don't want to tell the military about your problems because what if you can't get a job and have to re-enlist?

There's a light at the end of the tunnel, folks. Unfortunately, it's starting to look like a speeding train. And it's headed for us.

Crossposted over at Out of Iraq Bloggers' Caucus

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At 11:45 AM, Blogger dad said...

it's really interesting that you blogged about this right after the one about daniel sorenson's murder. recent research into neuropsychology suggests that the ability to experience compassion for others may be located in the forebrain, and that the exotic personality type known as "psychopathic" or "antisocial" - memorialized on film by such characters as hannibal lecter, and in real life by henry lee lucas - may be deficient or undeveloped in these brain areas. it is well documented that TBI sufferers frequently experience reduced impulse control and even violent rages. so rather than culling the herd for antisocials, as you suggest, it may be a proper pursuit of gene therapy or stem cell therapy to explore how damage to the forebrain could be repaired, or lack of growth stimulated. although behavior modification through medical means has always been very disturbing to me from a political standpoint, it seems like something that could become commonplace, assuming that our technological society doesn't fall apart.

At 11:02 PM, Blogger ThePoliticalCat said...

Dad, what a wonderful concept.

That would certainly be a lot more useful than sending a teenager to prison for life.

Do you have some links for experimental stem cell therapy for brain modification?

At 3:35 PM, Blogger dad said...

article on possible avenues for gene therapy here; stem cell therapy research mentioned here.


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