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DoD Mental Health TF Releases 1-Year Study
Report Takes Dim View of Military Health System Psychological Services
06/15/2007 6:09 PM ET
The military's health care system is underfunded and ill-equipped to effectively treat the psychological needs of US servicemen and women, concludes the Task Force on Mental Health, established by the DoD last year to undertake a one-year study of its mental health services.

The report, released Friday, concludes, "The Military Health System lacks the fiscal resources and the fully-trained personnel to fulfill its mission to support psychological health in peacetime or fulfill the enhanced requirements imposed during times of conflict. The mission of caring for psychological health has fundamentally changed and the current system must be restructured to reflect these changes."

The Task Force recommends "building a culture of support for psychological health" as one on the first steps to be undertaken in improving mental health care for veterans. That could require dispelling the stigma associated with it by embedding awareness training throughout the military career, making "psychological assessment procedures an effective, efficient, and normal part of military life, and updating military policies "to reflect current knowledge about psychological health."

The policies targeted for revision concern "command notification of alcohol-related problems and the mental health screening process for security clearances" because "these overly-conservative policies have the unintentional consequence of fueling erroneous beliefs that seeking psychological health care invariably results in permanent damage to one’s military career."

A lack of leadership, or even the structure for leadership, was found with regard to psychological health management within the system. The report recommends a number of new positions, standing committees, and other regularized bureaucratic features that would help bring mental health concerns to the forefront of the veterans medical system, including establishing a full-time Director of Psychological Health for each service, who would report directly to the Surgeon General or, for the Marine Corps, the Medical Officer of the Marine Corps.

See full report here: MHTF_Report_Final.pdf

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