September 14, 2009

Army ups combat stress coping training

Basic training for U.S. Army soldiers is being changed to include a much greater emphasis on mental health and resiliency under combat stress, officials say.

The goal is to reduce instances of post-traumatic stress disorder among combat veterans, the military newspaper Stars and Stripes reported Monday.

Stars and Stripes said that beginning in October, the first week of basic training for soldiers will feature anti-stress programs designed to building coping skills, which will be integrated into all levels of Army education.

The model is not to sit there and wait for people to show up (with PTSD), Lt. Col. Paul Bliese, chief of military psychiatry at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, told Stars and Stripes. We've moved away from that completely. The behavioral health officer needs to be actively involved in the lives of soldiers in a unit.

Military officials say an estimated 20 percent of U.S. service members returning from war zones suffer from PTSD, exhibiting high levels of suicide with occasional murders and other extreme outbursts of violence. The Pentagon has set up combat stress clinics near the front lines in Afghanistan, but has yet to study the clinics' downrange effectiveness, Stars and Stripes said.