Yesterday I commented on the intersection of news about Iraq War veterans and the death of an NFL player. Today, we focus more on the synergistic effect of the interplay between brain injury and emotional problems.
It was reported in the April 19, 2008 edition of the Science Daily that one in five Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans suffer from PTSD or major depression. In addition, 19% are reported to be suffering from the effects of brain injury.
According to this article:
Researchers surveyed 1,965 service members from 24 communities across the country to assess their exposure to traumatic events and possible brain injury while deployed, evaluate current symptoms of psychological illness, and gauge whether they have received care for combat-related problems.
The article said:
“There is a major health crisis facing those men and women who have served our nation in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Terri Tanielian, the project’s co-leader and a researcher at RAND, a nonprofit research organization. “Unless they receive appropriate and effective care for these mental health conditions, there will be long-term consequences for them and for the nation. Unfortunately, we found there are many barriers preventing them from getting the high-quality treatment they need.”
Odds are that they will get this attention. The recent federal funding has allocated large sums of money for TBI research and treatment from these two wars. Still, these numbers, if they are to be believed (i.e.,19% with TBI) mean that there are considerably more veterans involved the 20,000 or so that have been involved in recent studies. A 19% figure could push the number of vets with post concussional syndrome well into the hundreds of thousands. That would make even a half of billion dollars, seem inadequate.
Combat involves a synergistic (as defined yesterday) exposure to screwing up what makes the brain work. Not only are enemy attacks particularly bad for the organic matter inside the brain, but the constant vigilance and stress that which can occur, can create a more vulnerable brain to an “organic” injury. Prevalent throughout almost all neuropsychological literature is the challenge to distinguish between actual physical injury to brain tissue (organic injury) and the effect of emotional responses on the brain. There is no shortage of areas that the allocated research funds could be directed. Still, we believe that focusing on the synergistic effect and the vulnerabilities to injury of someone exposed to the stress of combat, should be near the forefront of priorities.