Group urges increased mental-health care for military, families
A National Alliance on Mental Illness report intends to make sure that the nation's military personnel, veterans and their families are not forgotten.
WASHINGTON — A new report by the National Alliance on Mental Illness said the government needs to fill the gaps in mental-health coverage for America's soldiers and veterans, who — along with their families — face high rates of mental illness.
"Parity for Patriots," released Thursday, focuses on holes in the mental-health-care system, on military suicide, the stigma associated with mental illness and on the delay in implementing mental-health-parity legislation.
"Once the war is over, people tend to forget veterans' needs," said Bob Carolla, director of media relations at the alliance. "We want to make sure ongoing mental-health needs aren't forgotten."
The alliance, which advocates for services, treatment of and research on mental illness, said such disorders "affect one in five active-duty service members and are the most common cause of hospitalization."
The rate also applies to military spouses and children, groups the alliance said are often overlooked in mental-health-care treatment.
More than half of active-duty military members are married and 44 percent have children, the report said. About 76,000 service members are single parents, and in about 41,000 cases, both parents are in the military.
Of 776,000 children with active-duty parents, one-third with at least one parent deployed have faced psychological challenges, including depression and behavioral disorders, according to a study by the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine cited in the report. A study by The New England Journal of Medicine, also cited in the report, found this rate intensifies with longer or multiple deployments.
A separate study in The New England Journal of Medicine of more than 250,000 military spouses showed that more than one-third of them were diagnosed with at least one mental disorder, the report said.
For service members and veterans, the report said the "hidden wounds" of war were equally disturbing: An active-duty service member commits suicide every 36 hours, the report said, and a veteran commits suicide every 80 minutes.
The report said mental-health services are available to soldiers and veterans from the Department of Defense overseas and stateside and from the Department of Veterans Affairs and the civilian health system. But navigating the different systems is difficult, the report said.
Legislation from 2008 mandates that employer-sponsored group-health-insurance plans treat mental illness and substance-abuse disorders the same way they treat medical disorders. But the report said successful implementation of the so-called parity law has been slow.