November 08, 2007

Stress of War resulting in Rapid Rise in Mentally Ill & Homeless Veterans

As anyone can imagine, war and the constant threat of injury and death is an extremely stressful experience. In fact ongoing or persistent stress has been identified as a leading contributor to brain damage and mental illness. As one paper noted; War is "everything from Hell on earth to the world's most powerful aphrodisiac. It is the subjectively experienced extremism of warfare that so readily contributes to the onset of mental or emotional illness..." Supporting this point is past coverage we've had on the damaging effects stress has on the brain. Research on long-term stress has shown that it is particularly damaging to the brains of children and teens, but that even in adults, emotional changes the brain undergoes aren't always reversible. Considering this research in the context of war, where the levels of stress are very high for months and years at a time, it seems obvious that soldiers should receive appropriate mental health support before, during and after they experience war. Unfortunately this isn't happening at the level that is needed - as demonstrated by a rising number of mentally ill veterans who are becoming homeless street people.

One such example is the story of Joe Williams, cited in the New York Times:

" Joe Williams, 53, spent 16 years in the Army and the Navy, including a deeply upsetting assignment in the mortuary at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, where the dead from the gulf war were taken for autopsies.

For the past three years Mr. Williams has lived in a bunk bed in a Washington shelter. He was laid off, his car and house were repossessed, and his wife left him. He moved to Georgia, where he lost another job.

Broke and depressed, he walked from Georgia to a V.A. hospital in the Washington area, where schizophrenia was diagnosed. Now, after three years of medication and therapy, he feels ready to start looking for work.

“I have a mission I’ve got to accomplish,” Mr. Williams said."

In the last few days there have been several news stories discussing the issue of mentally ill veterans who end up homeless after they return home from war. One report generated by The National Alliance to End Homelessness in Washington states that "among one million veterans who served after the Sept. 11 attacks, 72,000 are paying more than half their incomes for rent, leaving them highly vulnerable (to homelessness)." Another group called the Veterans For America found after "aggressive investigation" that war veterans are often given insufficient mental health related services. Both findings point to the fear many others are expressing of a possible surge in homeless veterans who are mentally ill.

As one story points out, the trauma from war, whether it's physical, mental or a combination of both makes it very difficult for returning soldiers to reintegrate into the normalcy of everyday life. The deficiency in support veterans experience once home:

  • Veterans have been among the beneficiaries, but Mary Cunningham, director of the research institute of the National Alliance and chief author of their report, said the share of supported housing marked for veterans was low.
  • The VFA (Veterans For America) has been disappointed with its findings of often poorly given mental health medical treatment by military facilities. There is little consideration given to TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) within the military justice system.
  • This lack of support only serves to further exacerbate this problem, leaving many soldiers even more susceptible to mental illness, substance-abuse problems and homelessness.

    Of course the devastating impact of the Iraq war is shared by the millions of innocent Iraqi children and families who suffer from the daily stress of risk of injury and death and loss of loved family members. Research suggests that the mental illnesses triggered by the many years of extreme wartime stress (and near-complete lack of treatment services in Iraq for local families) will likely affect millions of people during the decades ahead.

    Additional Reading:
    Surge Seen in Number of Homeless Veterans (New York Times)
    War Veterans Receive Poor Treatment for Combat-Induced Mental Illness, Says VFA Study (Associated Content)
    Homeless Vets Battle Mental Illness, Substance Abuse (MyFox Kansas City, VA)


    If you haven't seen the film WHEN I CAME HOME, check out this one minute trailer at:

    It is a great doc about homeless Iraq war veterans in New York City. We have to do more to support our veterans.

    Support The Vets!

    Posted by: Support The Vets at November 9, 2007 06:09 AM

    Soldiers experience a lot of stigma when it comes to seeking out psychiatric support. They often do not seek out the limited help that is out there for them.

    Posted by: soup at November 9, 2007 10:53 AM

    I agree. It's not fault they are sent to Iraq to be f***ed up.
    It's the fault of that war criminal Bush and his whore Condoleeza.

    Posted by: TJ at November 18, 2007 01:05 AM

    Recently it was reported that one in every four homeless people in America was a veteran ! Although our society wants you to think that Veterans are people that should be normally out casted from society because of their association with the military and because of their political motive to propagate the idea that these veterans are strange and odd and don't fit into society. This is nothing more than a pathetic agenda to dictate our nations social order through a mutual association !

    Posted by: Richard Hellstrom at December 2, 2007 09:50 AM

    Hi, I'm really interested in this topic because I'm working on a project involving people who have mental illnesses and who are unfortunately homeless as well. I'm also making a blog for a project relating to homelessness and mental illness at
    any feedback would be great! (p.s. its still unfinished with many unrelated things)
    thanks :)

    Posted by: tinetiners at December 4, 2007 12:17 PM

    Bill O'Reilly of Fox News has promised to take care of homeless veterans.

    Said he, " If you know where’s a veteran, sleeping under a bridge, you call me immediately, and we will make sure that man does not do it. Is not there."

    Posted by: John at January 16, 2008 11:36 AM

    My Published Letter !
    On March 25th 2007 , CBS reported that one out of every three homeless people were veterans living on the streets. In the same article they listed this number at 200,000 and said the VA could only house 14,000 veterans.
    The article further stated the Army contended that one out of every three Iraq veterans will have a mental illness when they return to America !
    On Dec 12th, it was reported that the 2006 suicide rate among Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans rose to 17.3 percent per 100,000 thousand veterans. This was the highest level in the last 26 years.
    If the reward of serving your nation is being , killed in action , cast out on the street , accused of having mental illness because you simply served in a police action or feeling like you have to terminate your life because of some sort of massive movement to outcast veterans, I would suggest that our youth seek a better means of employment ! This one seems to have Fatal marked all over it !

    My comments -
    If you had read the uncensored version of " All The Presidents Men" ( First Editions Warner Bros. ) then you know it stated that we had incorporated a Black Operational Government into our government that was formulated from experiments of Psychological and Electronic Warfare conducted in Vietnam during the Vietnam War ! I guess that explains the complaints about the Microwave attacks by the Veterans ! We were always taught that this kind of government was a form of communism and only used by countries like the Soviet Union , Communist Red China and other Eastern Block Communist Countries ! I guess its still a general consensus that utilizing electronic and psychological warfare against your own citizens to force them into prisons , programs of psychology , homelessness and suicide and etc ... is still considered a form of communism ! Many people contend its a form of Freedom and Democracy ! Of course I disagree !
    It also stated that we had signed a " A System To Delete The Need For War " , into our Executive ! This information was leaked by Mark Felt ! Seems like a secret society wanted to exclude their children from any type of future military service or from becoming homeless !

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