Military Deployment’s Harmful Effects on Mental Health of Children

When a parent is called to duty overseas, the stress it can put on the family members left at home can be significant. In a recent Truth Out post, an account was shared of the attempted suicide by a seven-year old boy whose father was serving another tour in Iraq.

At the time of the Vietnam war, a man was exempt from the draft if he had a family as military leaders had an overwhelming concern about the harmful effects deployment could have on children. While the country has not re-instated the draft, nearly half of the troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan are parents.

Many of these individuals are on repeated deployments, which have shown to stress soldiers and escalate the likelihood of psychological injuries that can last a lifetime. Now, research is mounting on the impact such deployments can have on children.

According to the Associated Press, “After nearly eight years of war, soldiers are not the only ones experiencing mental anguish…. Last year, children of US troops sought outpatient mental health care 2 million times, double the number at the start of the Iraq war…. Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, inpatient visits among military children have increased 50 percent.

A Veterans Administration study shows that the prevalence of new diagnosis in early 2008 had nearly doubled from 2004. In addition, roughly 35 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who use the Veterans Affairs health care system were diagnosed with a mental health problem.

At the same time, a suicide prevention project in San Antonio found that nearly 35 percent of more than 200 children from local military families needed to be treated for mental health conditions.

This appears to be a growing problem and one that should be investigated. After all, no seven-year old should ever be in such turmoil that the end of one’s life seems the only option.

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