Mental illness an increasing problem for military members

The treatment and diagnosis of mental health problems in the military has been making headlines since the untimely death of Commander Keith Springle, the Navy social worker who was gunned down by a patient at a mental health clinic in Iraq last month. Now legislators and mental health experts are citing the incident as a call to action. Area doctors, psychiatrists, and mental health professionals gather to learn more about the military, veterans and the complicated problem of traumatic brain injury. It's a seminar Commander Keith Springle helped with in the past. "The deaths at the clinic brings right to the fore, that we need to be doing what we're doing here today,” said Dan Hickman. Springle, along with four other Americans, were shot in a military mental health clinic by one of its patients in mid-May. His death is a reminder of how much more needs to be done. "Reduce the barriers to treatment, whether it be distance, whether it be finances, whether it be stigma, whatever it is, to get the support that these people really need,” said Bob Goodale of the Citizen Soldier Behavior Health Initiative. Since growing numbers of our military are surviving their physical injuries because of advanced medicine, more and more, service men and women carry the invisible wounds with them after the medical ones have healed. New legislation, sponsored by Congressman Mike McIntyre, was spurred by Commander Springle's death. "It has too often been a silent problem and a quietly discussed frustration, which has lead to overt acts of taking of other people's lives, which shows that something has got to be done.” McIntyre has co-sponsored two bills making mental health care and concerns a priority. Now military members returning home fill out a paper evaluation. One of the bills would require a returning service member to have a face-to-face mental health screening with a doctor. The two bills, the Veterans Mental Health Screening and Assessment, and the Combat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Act, were introduced in the spring and are currently in committee.

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