Coming to Grief

Low morale and stress are causing a mental health epidemic, including mounting suicides, among U.S. troops in Iraq

| March 18, 2004

The tally of suicides among U.S. troops in Iraq has climbed to 29, which raises questions about how accurately troop morale is being measured. So far, military press officers have kept talk of depression and suicide among service members to a hush, but soldiers' families are continuing to push for release of an Army Surgeon General's report that details the incidence of mental health problems among troops in Iraq and Kuwait.

According to a study conducted by Stars and Stripes, 34 percent of 2,000 troops deployed in Iraq report low or very low morale while nearly 1,000 troops have been sent to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany for mental health treatment. In a recent public appearance, Army Col. Thomas J. Burke cited the official rate of suicides among troops as 20 percent higher than the recent average. But why are behavioral health issues among troops on the rise?

Some activists are correlating troop suicide attempts with the rising inclination of American soldiers to ditch their duties in Iraq. Le Canard Enchaine recently reported that 1,700 individuals have abandoned their military posts, many disappearing after their stateside rotation. U.S. activist Carl Rising-Moore urges conflicted troops to flee to Canada, and plans to work with Canadian armed forces veterans in an operation entitled, 'Freedom Underground' that will aid AWOL U.S. service members in crossing the border into Canada.
-- Andi McDaniel

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