Report: Mentally ill sent to Iraqi front

May 14, 2006 at 12:20 PM
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HARTFORD, Conn., May 14 (UPI) -- Failure to screen U.S. troops for mental health problems may be the cause of an increasing suicide rate among soldiers serving in Iraq, a report says.

According to an investigation by the Hartford (Conn.) Courant, fewer than one in 300 service members see a mental health professional before shipping out, despite a congressional order that all deploying troops by screened, the newspaper reported Sunday.

The report uncovered evidence of soldiers suffering post-traumatic stress syndrome being sent back to the war zone and unstable troops being kept on the front lines while taking potent anti-depressants and anti-anxiety drugs.

In addition, the Courant said the failure to follow the congressional directive for pre-screening may be responsible for an all-time high suicide rate in Iraq last year, when 22 soldiers killed themselves, accounting for one in five of all non-combat Army deaths.

Military experts and advocates point to recruiting shortfalls and intense wartime pressure to maintain troop levels as reasons more service members with psychiatric problems are being deployed to the war zone and kept there.

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