Soldiers Who Fight The War Within

(CBS)
David Martin is National Security Correspondent for CBS News.
It's hard to say what's most alarming about the Pentagon's latest mental health survey -- the scope of the problem or the lack of effort that has gone into dealing with the problem.

First, the scope: 31 per cent of Marines, 38% of soldiers and 49% of National Guardsmen returning from Iraq and Afghanistan reported psychological symptoms such as depression, anger or alcohol abuse. When you consider that by now more than 1 million men and women have served at least one tour of duty, percentages like that amount to an epidemic of mental health disorders.

And it doesn't stop with the man or woman in uniform. Hundreds of thousands of children have had one or both parents leave them for extended tours of duty. The longer the war goes on, the worse the problem will get as more and more men and women go back for repeat tours.

All of that -- plus the stigma that prevents many soldiers and Marines from seeking mental health counseling -- seems fairly predictable, although the numbers -- one out of every two National Guardsman -- are probably higher than anyone expected. Which makes the Pentagon's lack of preparedness for this epidemic all the more baffling. While the number of soldiers and Marines needing help has gone up, the number of mental health professionals in the armed forces has gone down "dramatically."

The American military does not have enough mental health professionals for peace time, much less war. As the study put it, "the single finding that underpins all others in this report is that DoD (Department of Defense) leacks the resources -- both funding and personnel -- to adquately support the psychological health of service members and their families in times of peace and conflict."

  • David Martin

    David Martin is CBS News' National Security Correspondent.