Psychiatric Drugs and War: A Suicide Mission
The first in a four-part series by investigative journalist Kelly Patricia O’Meara written for the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) a psychiatric watchdog organization. The series will explore the epidemic of suicides in the military and the correlation to dramatic increases in psychiatric drug prescriptions to treat the emotional scars of battle. The first installment looks at the statistical data, military suicides and unexplained deaths among the troops tied to prescription drugs.
by Kelly Patricia O’Meara
October 11, 2012
[ This video supports the thesis of Kelly O’Meara below, and I thought it had some interesting things to say about the use and abuse of the military as guinea-pigs for Big Pharma and social experimentation.BUT, I did notice some strange things – there is a section on American soldier’Chad’ who has some British/Irish/Scottish inflections in his voice, and his ‘girlfriend’ bears a striking resemblance to the ‘fake’ sister of one of the ‘fake’ beheaded by ISIS. Another soldier named Michael, and his wife appear to be acting. And Mike Adams pops up. What is the point of this? Maybe subtly to engender fear of Military Veterans, especially those with GUNS. I believe this to be part of the campaign to disarm the American population. But that’s just my personal interpretation. But it’s worth watching. – J]
Imagine for a moment that a soldier is ordered to proceed through a clearly identified mine field, having received assurance from his commanding officer that it’s okay to proceed because the odds are not everyone is blown to bits. Most would consider this nothing short of a suicide mission.
The strained and war-weary men and women serving in the military today, on or off the battlefield, are faced with the equivalent of such a scenario when it comes to treating their emotional scars. Anxiety, sleeplessness, nightmares, stress and depression is affecting the troops serving in America’s longest war no less than those who’ve served in previous wars.
One glaring difference, though, lies in the “treatment” soldiers are receiving. Based on data released by those responsible for the health and well-being of the troops, it seems that pharmacology has replaced compassion. The days of talk therapy, a kind of willingness to stand in the warrior’s boots by listening to his experiences, has been replaced by the quick pop-a-pill fix.
But these pharmacological potions may be producing unintended consequences, and evidence is piling up that the ever-increasing use of dangerous psychiatric medications may be fueling the funeral pyre of military suicides and other unexplained deaths.
From 2001 to 2009, the Army’s suicide rate increased more than 150 percent while orders for psychiatric drugs rose 76 percent over the same period
According to recent data released by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), in the first 155 days of this year, 154 soldiers committed suicide—about one per day—compared to the 139 soldiers who died in combat in the same period. This is an incredible 18 percent increase from the previous year and an unbelievable 25 percent increase from the year before.
More disturbing, though, is that the increased suicides are occurring at a time when, with the withdrawal of troops from Iraq, U.S. combat forces are at significantly reduced numbers and, according to the DoD data, nearly one-third of the suicides in the military occurred among those who had never seen combat duty.
These data suggest that the “epidemic” of suicides in the military is not exclusive to those suffering from the physical and emotional strain of combat, so one has to ask what is responsible for the increased suicides…what is the common denominator among military personnel that may assist the top brass in combating this seemingly elusive and unidentifiable foe? The following data may offer insight.
From 2001 to 2009, the Army’s suicide rate increased more than 150 percent while orders for psychiatric drugs rose 76 percent over the same period and according to Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center, mental health disorders were the leading cause of hospitalization of active-duty service members in 2007, 2009 and 2011, with nearly $2 billion being spent on psychiatric drugs since 2001.
Despite the enormous increase in expenditures for psychiatric drugs and the growing number of mental health professionals recruited to care for the troops, “mental illness” remains the leading cause of hospitalization for active-duty troops. With so many resources being thrown at this life or death issue, both human and financial, why isn’t anyone getting better? More to the point, why are the troops taking their lives at record levels?
Dr. Bart Billings, Ph.D., retired Army Colonel, former military psychologist, founder and director of the military-wide Human Assistance Rapid Response Team (HARRT) program
Dr. Bart Billings, Ph.D., a retired Army Colonel and former military psychologist and founder and director of the military-wide Human Assistance Rapid Response Team (HARRT) program, has no doubt that the cause of the suicides among the troops is the direct result of the use of psychiatric drugs.
“I’m 100 percent convinced,” says Dr. Billings, “I’ve seen it and talked to hundreds of these guys. These medications really interfere with the brain’s ability to normalize itself and adjust. It’s hard to make a choice on how to recover if your brain isn’t operating the way it should be.”
“It’s kind of like working with someone who is drunk,” explains Dr. Billings, “you’re not going to get very far. It would be like me spinning you around fifty times and then asking you to walk a straight line. It’s not going to happen. These medications are a chemical lobotomy.”
So what are the medications Dr. Billings is referring to as a “chemical lobotomy” and peddled to the troops as magic mental health bullets? According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, during the last decade, nearly $850 million has been spent on Seroquel, an antipsychotic, prescribed to the troops for sleep disorders at a rate of 6.6 million prescriptions.
Seroquel was approved by the FDA for the treatment of Schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, yet, the military wrote more than fifty-four thousand Seroquel prescriptions last year, with 99 percent of those prescriptions written off-label—for disorders not approved by the FDA.
More astounding, though, is that the FDA’s approved Medication Guide for Seroquel lists “Risk of Suicidal Thoughts or Actions,” as one of Seroquel’s “serious side effects.” Anyone with four stars on the old epaulette might want to add this piece of information to the “good clue” column.
And, while suicidal thoughts and actions are at the top of the list of risks associated with Seroquel, there are others just as frightening, including, but not limited to: hallucinations, worsening mental or mood changes (e.g., aggressiveness, agitation, anxiety, depression, exaggerated feeling of well-being, hostility, irritability and panic attacks).
The question that comes to mind after reading this abbreviated risk list, and command may find it prudent to inquire, is how would a soldier know if these reactions are his (because of his alleged disorder) or actually are being caused by the mind-altering drug? More importantly, how would anyone (least of all a psychiatrist) be able to make this determination, given there is no science behind any psychiatric diagnosis. At this point, it doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibilities that military brass may politely be muttering a few simple “WTFs.”
Given the direction of mental health care over the last decade, it doesn’t take a battle field commission to figure out who’s giving the orders. Dr. Billings is all too aware of the military’s apparent surrender to psychiatry’s pharmacological assault. Despite the growing interest among military brass and lawmakers, Dr. Billings doesn’t have high hopes for answers unless major changes occur within the military mental health complex.
“The psychiatrists have no clue about what they’re doing,” says Dr. Billings, “and it’s psychiatry that runs mental health in DoD and the VA. DoD has to stop trusting them.”
Dr. Billings reasons that “any organization in the world whose leadership continually fails and loses money, in this case lives, would fire them. Why hasn’t psychiatry been fired? They are responsible for mental health (in the military) and have done nothing to stop these suicides.”
“If I was a platoon leader,” says Dr. Billings, “and I took my platoon out and I came back with 50 percent casualties and all the other platoon leaders are coming back with five percent casualties, I’d be fired—I’d be looking at court martial for negligence. They aren’t doing that to psychiatry. I’ve been trying to convince people that psychiatrists are nothing but legal drug dealers, and they’re dealing drugs that don’t work and actually kill people.”
The data regarding the increased drugging of military personnel and their families seems to support Dr. Billings’ conclusions. The atypical antipsychotic drugs, such as Seroquel (which has been implicated in a number of deaths of combat veterans and of late is being referred to as “Serokill”) and Risperdal, showed the most dramatic increase—a jump of more than 200 percent—with annual spending quadrupling between 2001 to 2011 from $4 million to $16 million.
It’s hardly a secret that these powerful mind-altering drugs cause the very symptoms that they are reported to treat, as the psychiatric drugs now being prescribed to soldiers long have been scrutinized for their possible serious adverse reactions and has been public record for nearly a decade.
In 2007 the Food and Drug Administration, FDA, updated its 2004 black-box warnings, the federal agency’s most serious warnings, on all of the antidepressants on the market—all of which are part of the military and VA formulary. The FDA warning reads in part “Suicidality and Antidepressant Drugs: Antidepressants increased the risk compared to placebo of suicidal thinking and behavior (suicidality) in children, adolescents, and young adults in short-term studies of major depressive disorder (MDD) and other psychiatric disorders….”
The FDA’s warnings about the potential for increased suicidal thoughts and behavior associated with antidepressants and antipsychotics (the apparent backbone of psychiatry’s military pharmacological arsenal), leads one to wonder why, according to the Army’s highest-ranking psychiatrist, Brig. Gen. Loree Sutton, seventeen percent of the active-duty force and 6 percent of deployed troops are on antidepressants.
More distressing, though, is these data do not represent the number of troops who are prescribed cocktails of psychiatric mind-altering drugs, which many believe is an alarming number, literally receiving multiples of prescriptions. Such deadly elixirs only add to the soldiers’ inability to identify which, of the many, mind-altering drugs may be responsible for their behavior, postponing recovery or, worse, causing greater harm and even death.
It makes sense that the Pentagon’s top brass would want to assess all available intelligence before deciding on the appropriate plan of attack. After all, the future readiness of this nation’s military is at stake. But simple truths can no longer be ignored. The military and VA have dramatically increased the numbers of mental health professionals, at the same time there has been a dramatic increase in psychiatric drug prescriptions among the troops, funding for both is skyrocketing and, still, the mental health of our nation’s warriors continues to deteriorate.
Until military command can acknowledge that they may have been out maneuvered by the psychiatric community, the nation’s soldiers will be forced to navigate a dangerous and deadly treatment mine field one terrifying step at a time.
Two Soldiers Prescribed 54 Drugs: Military Mental Health “Treatment” Becomes Frankenpharmacy.
The mental health watchdog Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) announces the second in a four-part series by award-winning investigative journalist Kelly Patricia O’Meara exploring the epidemic of suicides in the military and the correlation to dramatic increases in psychiatric drug prescriptions to treat the emotional scars of battle. The second installment covers psycho-pharma’s disastrous chemical experimentation within the military ending in sudden unexplained deaths, including those of Marine Corporal Andrew White and Senior Airman Anthony Mena who were prescribed a total of 54 drugs between them, including Seroquel, Effexor, Paxil, Prozac, Remeron, Wellbutrin, Xanax, Zoloft, Ativan, Celexa, Cymbalta, Depakote, Haldol, Klonopin, Lexapro, Lithium, Lunesta, Compazine, Desyrel, Trileptal, and Valium.
The devastating adverse effects mind-altering psychiatric drugs may be having on the nation’s military troops are best summed up by Mary Shelley’s Dr. Frankenstein, writing “nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.”
Just as the fictional character, Dr. Frankenstein, turned to experiments in the laboratory to create life with fantastically horrific results, the psychiatric community, along with its pharmaceutical sidekicks, has turned to modern day chemical concoctions to alter the human mind. The result is what many believe is a growing number of equally hideous results culminating in senseless deaths, tormented lives and grief-stricken families.
The nation’s military troops are taking their lives at record numbers and seemingly healthy soldiers are dying from sudden unexplained deaths. That’s a fact. The data are clear, yet, despite growing evidence pointing to the enemy among us, the monstrous psycho-pharmacological experiment continues (see Part 1: Psychiatric Drugs and War: A Suicide Mission).
To truly understand the madness that has become the military’s mental health services, one only need review a few cases before the horror of these unorthodox and destructive psycho-pharmacological experiments is exposed. Marine Corporal Andrew White and Senior Airman Anthony Mena are just two examples of psycho-pharma’s disastrous chemical experimentation.
Marine Corporal Andrew White was prescribed 19 drugs in less than one year
White was a healthy 23-year-old, gung-ho Marine returning from a nine-month tour in Iraq, who, like so many of his brothers in arms, suffered from the seemingly normal stresses of war—insomnia, nightmares and restlessness. The young corporal turned to the military’s mental health system for help. Within a few short months, White became unrecognizable to his family.
According to Andrew’s mother, Shirley White, “he couldn’t function.” White explains, “he was a Zombie… it was like we were caring for an elderly person.” White’s sudden and shocking decline began shortly after beginning a multi-drug treatment.
Among the first of the VA’s pharmacological concoctions in March of 2007, White was prescribed Seroquel, or “Serokill” as it is being referred of late, a powerful antipsychotic approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat bipolar disorder and Schizophrenia, along with the antidepressant, Paxil. These mind-altering psychiatric drugs made up the first “sudden change” to White’s mind.
The off-label prescription of Seroquel (AstraZeneca) carries with it the following adverse reactions: irregular heartbeat, hallucinations, mood changes, panic attacks, insomnia, restlessness and suicidal thoughts or actions. These are just a few of the more than one hundred possible side effects.
The second part of White’s prescribed pharmacological cocktail was the antidepressant, Paxil, an SSRI approved by the FDA to treat symptoms of PTSD, which also carries its own lengthy list of severe side effects, including restlessness, insomnia and irregular heartbeat—the very symptoms for which White had sought treatment.
Given that Seroquel was not approved to treat White’s symptoms, and it carried with it all the possible severe side effects White actually complained of, one has to wonder why it was chosen as part of the VA’s mind-altering cocktail. The answer may lie in the cozy relationship between top staff at the VA and the pharmaceutical industry.
Matthew J. Friedman, the executive director of the Department of Veterans Affairs National Center for PTSD, and Professor of Psychiatry and Pharmacology at Dartmouth Medical School, was on the payroll of AstraZeneca, the maker of Seroquel. And, while a consultant to AstraZeneca, Friedman was one of four authors of the American Psychiatric Association’s 2009 Practice Guide for the Treatment of Patients with Acute Stress Disorder and PTSD. Additionally, as a proponent of SSRI medications to treat PTSD, Friedman also sat on the PTSD Scientific Advisory Boards for GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer—the makers of the antidepressants Paxil and Zoloft.
Despite Dr. Friedman’s belief that cocktails of mind-altering drugs will “help” those suffering from combat related symptoms, White’s symptoms not only persisted but worsened, and VA, military and civilian psychiatrists returned to their laboratories, ever convinced the next multi-drug elixir would elicit remarkable results.
Apparently the physicians and psychiatrists caring for White worked from some twisted, mad scientist laboratory mentality that if-this-cocktail-of-five-mind-altering-drugs-doesn’t-work-let’s-try-upping-the-dosage-and-adding-drugs-we-haven’t-tried. One “sudden change” to another. The problem is the more drugs that were mixed, matched and increased, the worse White’s symptoms became.
And what was the explanation White’s parents were provided when they questioned Andrew’s doctors about his deteriorating health? “We asked his doctors,” says his mother, “but they just said ‘it takes time (for the pills to work).’”
But time ran out for White when, eleven months after beginning his first cocktail of mind-altering drugs, he died in his sleep from what the medical examiner ruled an “accidental overdose of medication.” After reviewing White’s list of prescribed mind-altering drugs, some may seriously wonder if “accident” is a grotesquely distorted word for negligent or, perhaps, criminal? (See complete list of drugs White had been taking here.)
Since taking his first multi-drug cocktail to the date of his death, White had been prescribed no less than nineteen different drugs with many at ever-increasing dosages, including antidepressants, antipsychotics, anti-anxiety, pain killers and antibiotics. The prescribed drugs Methadone, Oxycodone, Paxil and Seroquel were found in his system at the time of death.
Perhaps more shocking is that White had been prescribed 1600mg of Seroquel—more than double the maximum recommended dose for someone “schizophrenic” or “psychotic.” White was neither of these and, yet, the dosage of Seroquel climbed from 20mg to 1600mg over an eleven month period.
Shirley and Stan White can’t prove it, but they believe it was the cocktail of the high level of Seroquel and another, or several, of the drugs White had been prescribed that caused their son’s death. Given the changes that have occurred in the military and VA’s prescribing, there may be some truth to these suspicions.
In 2009, the FDA expressed worries about Seroquel and, in 2011, the federal agency issued new warnings for the antipsychotic as it “may be associated with sudden cardiac arrest…in some who took high doses of Seroquel.” Additionally the concerns about Seroquel, and the sudden unexplained deaths within the military, have not been ignored by the top brass at the Pentagon. In March of this year, U.S. Central Command removed Seroquel from the “approved” formulary, but there’s no guarantee that it won’t still be prescribed.
White’s parents believe this is a good first step, but more needs to be done to stop the chemical experimentation on the troops. “Andrew’s real problems,” says Shirley White, “did not start until after he was medicated.” Too many other parents mimic Shirley White’s sentiments, including Pat Mena who suddenly lost her son, Anthony, in July of 2009.
Senior Airman Anthony Mena was prescribed 35 drugs over an 18 month period
Twenty-three-year old Anthony (Tony) Mena did two tours in Iraq as part of Kirtland Air Force Base’s 377th Security Forces Squadron. Like so many others returning from combat, Mena suffered from insomnia, restlessness and nightmares—and like White, Mena received treatment from military, VA and civilian doctors.
Mena also complained of severe back pain and was routinely told by the military and VA doctors that it was “all in his head.” As it turned out, it actually was “all in his back” and when Mena was referred for help outside the military establishment, a very real medical condition was diagnosed by a civilian doctor.
By this time, however, Mena already had become a victim of the military’s mental health mind-altering multi-drug approach to treatment. Between January of 2008 and his death in July 2009, Mena had been prescribed no less than 35 prescription drugs, including numerous antidepressants, pain killers, tranquilizers and muscle relaxers.
The toxicology report revealed that Mena had nine different prescription medications in his system at the time of his sudden death—Xanax, Ambien, Dilaudid, Fentanyl, Paxil, Remeron, Skelaxin and Desyrel. Despite the numerous combinations of mind-altering drugs prescribed to Mena, he did not get “better” but, rather, became another psycho-pharma experiment gone deadly wrong. (See complete list of drugs Anthony had been taking here.)
According to Tony’s mother, Pat Mena, “Tony didn’t die from PTSD, he died from the combination—cocktail—of the drugs they gave him. Tony never got better and they tried almost every antidepressant on the market.” “None of the drugs,” explains Mena, “helped my son and that’s what I’d tell his doctors. I’d say ‘you gave him a tranquilizer and I don’t see him calm, you gave him an antidepressant and I don’t see him happy and he’d take pain killers and he still had pain.’”
Like Stan and Shirley White, Tony’s parents repeatedly questioned doctors about the number of drugs their son was taking and were continually assured that the treatment “takes time.” But, like White, time ran out for Senior Airman Anthony Mena, and no crazed combination of psycho-pharma’s multi-drug concoctions can turn back the clock.
Andrew White and Anthony Mena have become part of ever-increasing numbers of young, seemingly healthy soldiers who survived the horrors of war only to return home to fight, and lose, their toughest battle. Their deaths were not suicides. Rather, they are among a growing list of sudden deaths among military personnel, which many believe is due to sudden cardiac arrest brought on by the drug cocktails being prescribed. Fred Baughman Jr., MD has been researching these questionable deaths and believes the few that are known are just the “tip of the iceberg.”
There have been a number of peer-reviewed papers regarding the increased risks of sudden cardiac arrest deaths associated with antipsychotics and antidepressants. Baughman looked into the fatal heart attacks of four soldiers who died in their sleep. All four soldiers were given Seroquel, Paxil and Klonopin for treatment of PTSD—all in their twenties, no signs of suicide or drug overdose. According to Baughman, “antipsychotics and antidepressants alone or in combination, are known to cause Sudden Cardiac Death [SCD].”
“The drugging in the military doesn’t make any sense,” says Baughman. “When we get information from the families,” explains Baughman, “we’re finding that these guys are on five to fifteen different drugs at any one time. If these soldiers are dying from these drugs and the military is refusing to cut back on the drugs, this is scandalous. I think they are just calling these sudden cardiac arrests suicides and I don’t think we’ve begun to see the true numbers.”
Baughman continues to research SCD data and is working with families whose sons and daughters have fallen victim to the multi-drug cocktail experiment. “The military,” says Baughman, “has to come clean on these deaths.” The families of the fallen also want answers and are working to bring the issue to the forefront.
Both the White and Mena families feel a responsibility to their sons to warn others about their experiences within the military mental health system. With the hope that the story of Tony’s downward spiral will help others, Pat Mena has written a book titled, You’ll Be Fine, Darling: Struggling With PTSD After Trauma of War. The Whites are vocal opponents of the excessive drugging and have lobbied Congress about the dangers of the psychiatric medications being prescribed to the nation’s troops.
One can only admire the courage of these families and hope that with their voices fighting on their behalf, other warriors will be spared the nightmare that is this horrific pharmacological experiment. The military is a powerful family and they take care of their own.
Perhaps it is time for them to sever their ties to the psycho-pharma community, reconsider the benefit of modern day pharmacological experimentation and heed the dire warning to Mary Shelley’s, Dr. Frankenstein… “You have created a monster, and it will destroy you.
Out of the Asylums and Into the Army: Psychiatry Creates Multi-Billion Dollar Market for Military Psychiatrists and Big Pharma
The mental health watchdog Citizens Commission on Human Rights announces the third in a four-part series by award-winning investigative journalist Kelly Patricia O’Meara exploring the epidemic of suicides and sudden deaths in the military and the skyrocketing use of psychiatric drugs being prescribed to soldiers and vets. The third installment looks at the historical data behind the psychiatric-military alliance and the psychiatric-pharmaceutical industry’s increasing power and influence within the military today.
“War is hell.” Few who have served in combat would argue with this summation of the brutality and human tragedy of battle, provided long ago by Civil War General, William Tecumseh Sherman.
Acknowledging the sacrifice of our troops, as a nation, we welcome the returning warriors as heroes, making it all the more difficult to understand why the psychiatric community seems determined to make victims of the very soldiers we honor for their extraordinary service.
As has been well documented in the first two parts of this investigative series, the military is at a mental health crossroad. Soldiers are dying by suicide and other sudden unexplained deaths at record—even epidemic—levels; an epidemic that seems to have been spawned by the nearly $2 billion Department of Defense (DoD) and Veterans Affairs (VA) have spent on antipsychotics and anti-anxiety drugs, despite international drug regulatory warnings of mania, psychosis, suicide and death. Even according to DoD’s own policy, “Guidance for Deployment-Limiting Psychiatric Conditions and Medications,” antipsychotics like Seroquel are disqualifiers for deployment.
Given that under the advice of mental health professionals suicides and other unexplained deaths still are increasing, why does command continue to listen to what, for all practical purposes, appears to have miserably failed? Despite the fact that since 2009, mental health staffing has doubled in Afghanistan and a mental health survey of deployed troops found that stress levels among service members in Afghanistan nearly tripled between 2005 and 2010.
To understand why command appears to be content with the nation’s troops being diagnosed as mentally ill and then, like freshmen at a frat keg party, plied with multiples of psychiatric drugs, one first must understand the psychiatric community’s ever-increasing interest in, and role, among the military ranks. It isn’t tough and military brass need only look back a few wars ago.
Prior to World War I virtually all American psychiatrists worked in mental asylums where there were no specific treatment methods for any given mental illness. In fact, some methods were so torturous the word “treatment” can’t be used to describe them.
For example: ice baths, where mental patients were submerged in freezing water until they lost consciousness; and bleedings, where a massive amount of blood was drained from the patient, often causing death.
However horrific psychiatry’s early treatment methods were, with war looming, for psychiatrists it was out of America’s asylums and into the Army where hospital white was replaced by officer rank Army green.
Psychiatrists previously employed ice baths, submerging patients in freezing water until they lost consciousness.
Understandably, by the start of World War II, only thirty-five psychiatrists could be counted among military ranks, but those numbers quickly rose when the psychiatric community offered its services in weeding out those they believed to be mentally unfit during the Selective Service process. Many believe psychiatrists saw the war as a means to legitimize their practice—even if it was at the expense of those defending our nation—and handsomely profiting from it.
Brigadier General William Menninger, the highest-ranking psychiatrist in the military during WWII, sought to get neuropsychiatry accepted on equal par with medicine and surgery. And it was Menninger who devised a psychiatric classification system, which scared military leaders into believing that increasing numbers of civilians were mentally unfit for military service. Even Menninger’s Commanding Officer, Colonel Sanford French, who believed psychiatry was “for the birds,” approved mental health screening, and reportedly advised Menninger that “I don’t understand what you are doing—you are changing the whole Service Command—but go ahead.”
And “change” it did. The psych screening didn’t go as predicted, as military big shots determined that the screenings had resulted in the substantial and unnecessary loss of hundreds of thousands of potential service members.
But those who made it through the psych screening were met again on the battlefield, where psychiatrists were relied upon to handle the psychological effects that training and combat situations had upon soldiers and, by the end of WWII, the number of psychiatrists in the military had risen to 1,000.
What the psychiatric community theorized from plying their trade on soldiers at the front was that the detrimental effects of “shell shock” and “combat fatigue” could be dealt with on the front lines—a mentality of dealing with issues of battle-induced stress on the front before it escalated into more debilitating symptoms and aimed at more expeditiously returning the troops to battle.
Although the results of those interventions are unclear at best, after the war, the psychiatric community transferred its new war-related psychotherapeutic treatments to the civilian population and civilian mental health intervention was born.
Psychiatrists used the war to advance their cause, testifying before Congress and sporting the authority of military uniforms to secure not only federal funds but also a new government research arm, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).
In Madness and Government, by Henry Foley and Steven Sharfstein and published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), the authors write, “testimony focused on the large number of wartime psychiatric casualties and the acute shortage of people, notably psychiatrists, trained to care for them. Much testimony was heard in praise of the new, more effective methods of care developed during the war.”
The psychiatric community’s failures, however, went unnoticed. According to Foley and Sharfstein (who at the time was on the staff of the APA), ” The extravagant claims of enthusiasts—that new treatments were highly effective, that all future potential victims of mental illness and their families would be spared the suffering, that great economies of money would soon be realized—were allowed to pass unchallenged by the professional [psychiatric] side of the professional-political leadership.”
Consequently, psychiatry became virtually the only branch of medicine to have its training subsidized by federal funds and with that came a 10-fold increase in the number of psychiatrists in the U.S. over the next forty years.
It also was with the end of the Second World War that psychiatry, with its new-found legitimacy, began to classify psychiatric conditions. Beginning in 1943 with the Surgeon General’s Medical 203 Report, the Army’s classification manual for mental health disorders, the psychiatric community had found its opening into the civilian population.
By 1952, the APA had revised Menninger’s military version of mental conditions and called it the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, known as the DSM-I, containing some 112 diagnostic categories.
Given that psychiatric diagnosing is not, nor has it ever been, based in science, the DSM-I was completely consensus-based, that is mental illnesses were added based on agreement (a vote) by fellow psychiatrists. As if consumed by some self-proclaimed supernatural clairvoyance into the inner workings of the human mind, by 1968, the APA’s psychiatrists had published a revised DSM-II listing an additional 66 new categories, bringing the total to 178.
Twelve years later, in 1980, the DSM-III boasted some 228 different diagnostic categories and by 1987, the total had risen to 259 with the publication of the DSM-III-R. By 1994 the APA was on a roll and claimed such extraordinary insight into human behavior that they expanded the diagnostic categories to 374 with the publication of the DSM-IV. Finally, by the time the DSM-IV-TR, the revised DSM-IV, had been rolled out what originally began as a book of a mere hundred pages had grown to more than nine hundred.
For the purpose of establishing the medical integrity of the DSM (in any of its versions) the following are provided as an example of how far psychiatry has come in determining what constitutes “mental illness.”
Reading Disorder (315.00) – Reading achievement that falls substantially below expected individual chronological age. This may persist into adult life.
Mathematics Disorder (315.1) – Mathematical ability that falls substantially below expected individual chronological age. May not be apparent until the fifth grade or later.
Disorder of Written Expression (315.2) – Writing skills that fall substantially below expected individual chronological age. Little is known about its long-term prognosis.
The above “mental illnesses” along with every other mental illness listed in the DSM, were voted into existence by the APA’s psychiatrists with utter certainty (and apparent straight faces). However silly the above seem, it is the ever-expanding diagnosis of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) that Pentagon brass must familiarize itself with when considering the causes behind the epidemic of non-combat related deaths.
There is no doubt that the nation’s soldiers have been traumatically affected by their participation in America’s longest war (Iraq and Afghanistan), suffering from what many consider normal reactions to extraordinary, life-threatening situations. In fact, a recent report by the Veterans Administration reveals that 30%, or nearly 250,000 of the 834,463 Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans treated by the VA, have been diagnosed with PTSD, making it a lucrative mental illness for psychiatry.
Surprisingly, though, the psychological trauma of war does not appear to effect all soldiers, fighting in the same wars and for similar tours of duty, equally. According to a study published in the Royal Society journal by Neil Greenberg of the Academic Centre for Defence Mental Health at King’s College in London, American soldiers showed PTSD prevalence rates of in excess of 30 percent while the rates among British troops was only four percent. The study further revealed that while “researchers found increased mental health risk for American personnel sent on multiple deployments, no such connection was found in British soldiers.”
So what gives? Why are American troops returning home with a mental illness that, for the most part, seems to escape their British brothers in arms? Understanding this enormous difference in the psychological effects of war, one first has to have some history of the PTSD diagnosis.
PTSD as we know it today, was created after the Vietnam War. Originally called Post-Vietnam Syndrome, this supposed mental illness actually gained notoriety with the help of anti-war psychoanalysts unhappy with the nation’s involvement in Southeast Asia. In a 1972 New York Times article titled “Post-Vietnam Syndrome” psychiatrist and anti-war advocate, Chaim Shatan, wrote that veterans had been “deceived, used and betrayed” by the military. Shatan further expressed his opinion about the creation of this new mental illness in a memo to his colleagues, “This is an opportunity to apply our professional expertise and anti-war sentiments.”
Apparently distressed that “traumatic war neurosis” had been eliminated from the DSM-II, Shatan co-founded the Vietnam Veterans Working Group, made up of like-minded psychiatrists and succeeded in having Posttraumatic Stress Disorder included in the next edition of the DSM-III.
With each succeeding edition of the DSM, despite its controversy, the symptoms of PTSD have grown in such proportions that even many within the field have criticized the diagnosis. Herb Kutchins, Professor of Health and Human Services at California State University, Sacramento, and Stuart A. Kirk, Professor of Social Welfare, UCLA School of Public Affairs, and authors of Making Us Crazy, explained that many soldiers were not experiencing PTSD or stress, but battle fatigue—exhaustion—and that the DSM-III had gone “far beyond pathologizing the problems of war veterans,” that it “has become the label for identifying the impact of adverse events on ordinary people. This means that normal responses to catastrophic events often have been interpreted as mental disorders.”
In order to diagnose these normal responses, the psychiatric community has come up with 175 combinations of symptoms by which PTSD can be diagnosed.
But is PTSD really a mental illness in need of treatment? A brief overview of the scope of the category raises serious questions. The following are just a few of the necessary conditions needed to qualify for PTSD: experiencing traumatic events, military combat, violent personal assault (sexual assault, physical attack, robbery, mugging), kidnapping, being taken hostage, terrorist attack, torture, incarceration as a prisoner of war, natural and manmade disasters, severe automobile accidents, being diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, and repeated verbal, physical, emotional and sexual assault.
Additionally, one need not actually be the victim of the above, but also can qualify for PTSD if they are witnesses to events such as, observing serious injury or unnatural death due to violent assault, accident, war, or disaster or unexpectedly viewing a dead body or body parts. Again, the above is just an abbreviated list of conditions that may qualify as mental illness, leaving one to wonder who, whether in the military or not, wouldn’t qualify for PTSD.
Adding to the questionable, and decidedly overbroad PTSD diagnosis, the treatment associated with this “mental illness” more often than not involves the prescribing of multiple psychiatric mind-altering drugs. The very drugs that are reported to be ineffective in at least half of those diagnosed with PTSD and many now agree actually cause damage.
This kind of drugging doesn’t come cheap. The Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs reports spending nearly $2 billion since 2001 on psychiatric drugs to treat “mental illness” and PTSD, including more than $800 million on antipsychotic drugs like Risperdal and Seroquel, or “Serokill” as it is being called.
Ironically, military psychiatry’s failure to help our fighting forces provides the opportunity to demand additional research funds to “solve” the problem—much the same way as psychiatry pitched its services after WWII. Since 2006, the Army’s Medical Research and Material Command has spent nearly $300 million on 162 research programs to understand, treat and prevent PTSD. Today, however, the cause of PTSD remains elusive, as psychiatrists admit there are no known causes or cures for any mental disorder.
Despite this stunning admission, a Presidential Executive Order in August 2012 ordered the VA to hire another 1,600 mental health professionals by June of 2013. The American Psychological Association was also successful in obtaining Congressional authorization for hefty incentive bonuses for psychologists who stay on active duty, and also a recruitment incentive as high as $400,000 for an active-duty commitment of at least four years for civilian psychologists.
With the millions of dollars being spent on getting to the bottom of this “epidemic,” command may find it prudent to take a hard look at some basic facts. Suicides, and other unexplained sudden deaths, have increased for the past several years, as has the diagnosing of PTSD and the prescribing of psychiatric drugs, many of which are not approved by the FDA for treatment of PTSD and many of which cause the very symptoms the troops have sought treatment for. (See Part II – Two Soldiers Prescribed 54 Drugs: Military Mental Health “Treatment” Becomes Frankenpharmacy.)
Anyone concerned about the increasing number of deaths would be hard pressed not to notice that it actually is the diagnosing of PTSD that is at epidemic numbers. If military command continues to allow the psychiatric community to give the orders, the end result may actually be an “Army of one.”