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Pentagon: Military's mental health care needs help

Story Highlights

• A new report says the military is unable to provide adequate psychological care
•Insufficient funding, prejudices toward mental illness are part of the problem
• Long wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have made mental health a major issue
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(CNN) -- A Pentagon report released Friday says the military's mental health services need some serious therapy.

"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," according to "An Achievable Vision," a report from the Pentagon's Task Force on Mental Health.

The task force members reviewed information in public testimony from "experts and advocates" and people at military installations across the world.

Here are some of the findings.

  • A stigma attached to mental health problems among service members "remains pervasive and often prevents service members from seeking needed care."
  • "Existing processes for psychological assessment are insufficient to overcome the stigma inherent in seeking mental health services."
  • "Mental health professionals are not sufficiently accessible to service members."
  • "Leaders, family members, and medical personnel are insufficiently trained in matters relating to psychological health."
  • "Some Department of Defense policies, including those related to command notification or self-disclosure of psychological health issues, are overly conservative."
  • "Significant gaps in the continuum of care for psychological health remain, specifically related to which services are offered, where services are offered, and who receives services."
  • "Family members have difficulty obtaining adequate mental health treatment."
  • The military lacks "enough fiscal or personnel resources to adequately support" psychological help of service members and their families.
  • Military treatment facilities don't "provide a full continuum of psychological health care services for active duty service members and their families."
  • The number of active duty mental health professionals is insufficient and likely to decrease without substantial intervention.
  • The network benefit addressing psychological health "is hindered by fragmented rules and policies, inadequate oversight, and insufficient reimbursement."
  • The task force wants to correct these deficiencies by working to dispel biases against mental health care, making professionals accessible and embedding "psychological health training throughout military life."

    It calls for changing "policies to reflect current knowledge about psychological health, making "psychological assessment procedures an effective, efficient, and normal part of military life," and ensuring that the military health network's provisions "fulfill beneficiaries' mental health needs."

    With U.S. troops fighting long, grueling wars this decade in Iraq and Afghanistan, mental health has emerged as a major issue.

    A Pentagon survey last month that assessed the mental health of troops in Iraq found one-third of soldiers and Marines in high levels of combat report anxiety, depression and acute stress.

    According to that report, soldiers who were deployed more than six months or multiple times were more likely to screen positive for a mental health issue.


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