Monday, January 31, 2011

PTSD, TBI and Suicide Prevention Strong Focus of the Army

Gen. Peter W. Chiarelli, vice chief of staff of the Army, noted Sunday that although the complexities of the brain make it challenging to determine treatments for those wounded, the Army continues its effort to find solutions to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), traumatic brain injury (TBI) and stemming the tide of suicide among service members.

His keynote address kicked off ROA's first-ever National Security Symposium at the Washington Marriott Wardman Park in Washington, D.C., which runs Sunday and Monday, along with ROA's Reserve Component Expo. The two day symposium was designed as a cornerstone of ROA's mission to educate members and attendees on national security issues.

Gen. Chiarelli opens the Symposium
Emphasizing soldier and family care as crucial to the endurance of the military, Gen. Chiarelli said Soldier mental well-being is of the utmost importance and directly affects the nation's security, particularly after nearly 10 years in the fight.

"Our soldiers and their families are under a tremendous amount of stress and strain, physically and emotionally," he said. "The reality is, as we continue to draw down operations in Iraq, and eventually in Afghanistan, we're going to see more and more of them returning home, many of them dealing with physical and behavioral health injuries, including depression, anxiety, traumatic brain injury, and post traumatic stress [disorder]."

It's not an easy task to tackle, although the Army continues to search for treatments and solutions.

"The fact remains, these wounds are not well understood, yet they affect a significant portion of the Army's wounded warrior population," Gen. Chiarelli said.

Although the Army is taking a holistic approach to dealing with these injuries, the study of the brain is incredibly complex.

"And as of Jan. 1 this year, 63 percent of those wounded have either PTSD (47 percent) or TBI (16 percent)," he said. "But many treatment efforts are still in their infancy, and the challenge is often beset by a latency period before symptoms emerge."

One of the most troubling numbers, he noted, was the increased number of high-risk deaths, suicide attempts, and suicides in the past year. But it wasn't on the side of deployed personnel.

"We saw a substantial increase in the number of suicides of soldiers not serving on active duty, to include a doubling in the Army National Guard," he said.

As a result, the Army is working to determine the factors contributing to this increase.
"One joint study I'm particularly excited about is the Army STARRS [Study To Assess Risk and Resilience in Servicemembers], a 50 million dollar, five-year study to assess risk and resilience in servicemembers," Gen. Chiarelli said.

According to, investigators will look for factors that help protect a Soldier's mental health and those factors that put a Soldier's mental health at risk.

Although a five-year study running through 2014, STARRS will report findings as they come available.

In addition, Gen. Chiarelli said the Army is working closely with employers of the Guard and Reserve in the private sector to try to mitigate economic stress.

"The reality is, what they both desire is predictability," he added. "And we recognize we must do everything we can to provide that predictability and also as much stability as possible."

No comments: