Tag Archives: Mental Health Issues

Mental Health Issues & Iraq: Police Reservists Returning to Work

In an news article dated Friday, November 16, 2007, Kevin Johnson, USA Today reports that Reservists who return from the Iraqi Civil War to conduct police work face particular challenges:

“Shortly after Wayne Williamson returned to Texas from an 11-month deployment to Iraq as an Army reservist, he began jumping at virtually every unexpected sound.

“Although his attorney now says his reactions were perhaps classic symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder, Williamson told no one, including his supervisors at the Austin Police Department, until March – after he opened fire on an unarmed suspect during a brief foot chase.

“The suspect was not hit, but one of the three rounds struck a parked van, narrowly missing two children inside. The shooting cost Williamson his job, and prosecutors are reviewing whether his reactions were criminal.

As regarding the initial invasion of the sovereign Nation of Iraq, the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the terrorist attacks against New York and Washington, D.C., and the product safety concerns of the American parent and consumer, the so-called Bush Administration has little or no planning pertaining to the re-entry of Reservists onto the police force.  This is the most incompetent Administration in U.S. history and its effects are now being played out on American streets and highways.

More below the flip…

Johnson continues:

“Police and mental health authorities say Williamson’s case represents an increasing concern about thousands of returning reservists.  Unlike other part-time soldiers, they resume duties that sometimes require the use of lethal force under conditions very different from the combat zone…

“…For those serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, lethal force is a central part of the mission. Rules governing its use vary where enemy attacks are constant threats.

“You can’t just put people back in these jobs, give them their badge and gun and expect that things are going to be fine,” says Stephen Curran, a Maryland psychologist who counsels officers. “Getting back into the flow of things is a challenge (for returning officers). Most make it, but there are others who come back with problems.”

“Of particular concern, Curran says, are the long-term effects of prolonged and close-range exposure to blasts from mortar fire or improvised explosive devices. Even when there is no apparent physical injury, repeated exposure can trigger symptoms similar to concussion, which can substantially alter victims’ ability to concentrate.

“Recovery time can be a year or more,” Curran says of the condition, which is not easily diagnosed.”

“Although thousands of officers served in Vietnam, the Iraq war differs because of the urban combat and the military’s unprecedented reliance on reservists, who routinely are dispatched to the front lines there and in Afghanistan…

“…In Tucson, police psychologist Mary-Wales North says the department’s reorientation activities include a debriefing by a department psychologist before and after deployments.  Returning officers spend about two weeks training on the shooting range and get refresher courses on high-speed driving.”

In another USA Today article, Johnson reports:

“A survey last month of 103 psychologists across the USA who treat public safety officers found 16% were counseling those who had returned from combat zones, says Stephen Curran, a Maryland psychologist who conducted the survey and counsels officers.”

Thus far in my private practice in Palm Springs and in the Inland Empire, I have seen a police officer/Reservist who returned from the Iraq Civil War with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD, please refer to my previous post re the signs and symptoms of PTSD at Returning Iraq Occupation Forces Have Increased Incidence of Depression and Anxiety), a child of a Reservist who suffered from depression related to fears that her father would die in Iraq, and other family members who suffered from anxiety and depression related to families in turmoil related to military issues.  This does not include the number of gay servicement whom I have seen who were summarily discharged from service due to their perceived or actual sexual orientation.  The effects of the poor planning, poor execution, and poor oversight of this intramural conflict has been disastrous thus far on military personnel, their families, and their communities.

It will take years before the full effects of this foreign policy disaster is known in all of its human terms.  God save America.