U.S. troops returning from Afghanistant to have their mental health tested.
U.S. troops returning from Afghanistan will be required to have their mental health tested. From Fayetteville, N.C. newspaper article
Published on: 2002-08-30
Mental health of troops to be tested
By Tanya S. Biank
U.S. troops in Afghanistan will be screened for psychological problems before returning to the United States, an Army official said.
Bragg deaths draw concern (Aug. 27)
Army team to examine medical implications of Bragg slayings (Aug. 24)
Domestic violence targeted (Aug. 22)
Pentagon to probe murders, suicides (Aug. 21)
Critics take aim at Army's priorities (Aug. 18)
Wives reflect on homicides' backlash (Aug. 11)
Bragg deaths spark action (Aug. 7)
Army wives sought separation (Aug. 4)
Military spouses cite stresses, abuse (Aug. 2)
Wife deaths set alarms at Fort Bragg (July 27)
Series of slayings shakes military community (July 26)
Shannon's daughter arrested (Aug. 3)
Wife charged in Shannon's death (July 31)
Soldier's funeral put on hold (July 27)
Police investigating soldier's slaying (July 25)
Soldier killed in home (July 24)
Wright's wife strangled, autopsy, report says (July 23)
Floyd believed to have killed wife, then self (July 22)
Floyds found dead at their home (July 21)
Wright charged in wife's slayings (July 20)
Theer arrested in Florida (August 6)
Nieves, wife found dead (June 13)
The new procedures have been adopted because of three murder cases involving Fort Bragg soldiers accused of killing their wives this summer. The three soldiers had served in Afghanistan. Two of the soldiers committed suicide.
All soldiers will be screened using a mental-health check list, according to Col. Thomas Hicklin.
''We're deeply concerned ... and are moving ahead to try to screen people better who are going home and provide them with the services they need once they get there,'' Hicklin told The Associated Press. Hicklin is chief of the unit in Afghanistan that deals with stress disorders.
Commanders also are being encouraged to look for symptoms of distress such as depression and anxiety.
Fort Bragg troops have been deployed to Afghanistan since Sept. 11, including about 3,000 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division who deployed this summer.
Dr. Tom Harbin, a Fayetteville psychologist and author of ''Beyond Anger, A Guide for Men,'' doubts the recent slayings have an Afghanistan connection. But Harbin, who has provided training for Fort Bragg chaplains on domestic violence, said the mental health screening is a good idea.
''I think that the stresses of being deployed and on top of that the stresses of being in actual combat can be pretty serious for someone's adjustment when coming back home,'' he said.
As a psychologist, Harbin has treated victims and perpetrators of domestic violence. He said he would like to see what makes up the psychological screening, adding that it is probably a good start.
''But I don't think that is where they are going to get the most bang for their buck,'' he said.
Harbin said a more effective intervention will require institutional changes that allow soldiers to get help without putting their careers in jeopardy.
However, Harbin said he understands why there can't be the same level of confidentiality in the Army as there is in the civilian community.
''If there is somebody who is having severe psychological problems, I don't want him wielding a TOW missile,'' he said.
Meanwhile, an epidemiology team from the Army's Office of the Surgeon General has extended its stay at Fort Bragg.
The 16-member team arrived Sunday to investigate the medical aspects surrounding the string of slayings and murder-suicides involving Fort Bragg couples this summer.
The team anticipated staying until Thursday but will stay through next week to allow more time for the investigation, officials said.
''I think it's been going fairly well,'' said Maj. Jan Northstar, a Fort Bragg spokeswoman. ''We're working with them closely as an installation.''
The team's report should be completed by the end of September, said Virginia Stephanakis, a spokeswoman for the surgeon general's office.
The team will present its findings to the Army surgeon general.
The team, which includes a psychologist, a psychiatrist, a social worker, chaplain epidemiologists and two people from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are looking at an array of behavioral health-related issues that may be relevant to the homicides and suicides.
The team also is looking at family support services and programs that help soldiers and families deal with deployments.
As part of the investigation, the team will identify what factors contributed to the killings and what may have prevented them.
''They are looking at a lot of information,'' Northstar said.
The drug Lariam
Part of the investigation will include a look at the anti-malarial drug Lariam, which is routinely prescribed to soldiers in malaria-risk countries such as Afghanistan. The team will look into whether the men took Lariam.
Pentagon and Fort Bragg officials have said Lariam will play a small role in the investigation.
Fort Bragg's own investigation so far has not found Lariam to be a factor in the murders, officials have said.
Staff writer Tanya Biank can be reached at 323-4848, extension 370, or firstname.lastname@example.org
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