Institute will work to end the cycle of military mental health crises
Antioch University Seattle (AUS) hosted the opening ceremony for the Institute of War Stress Injuries and Social Justice as well as its first advisory board meeting on Saturday, November 17.
Each year, hundreds of thousands of young men and women serve in the military and swear to “protect and defend” our nation. In return, the United States vows to ensure access to the highest quality physical and mental health care.
However, Dr. Mark C. Russell, AUS Psychology professor and founder of the Institute, believes we haven’t lived up to our vow to effectively support our returning veterans and their families with war stress injuries. It’s difficult to disagree with his statement when the following is only a small sampling of the issues we are now facing:
- in 2012, suicides outpaced combat deaths among US troops for the first time
- 11-20% of Veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are diagnosed with PTSD (Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom) (This number is from the Dept. of Veterans Affairs and may well be low.)
- there has been a 64% increase in violent sexual crimes in the military since 2006 (95% of those being women, who comprise 14% of the military population.)
According to Russell, we have the knowledge to help. The problem is that “we have repeatedly ignored and failed to implement the well-documented psychiatric lessons of war.” This strategy has resulted in costly military mental health crises which continually prevent our warrior class from receiving the best possible care.
Russell believes this is preventable, and that’s where the Institute comes into play.
Its role will be to investigate, identify and eliminate the root causes affecting the cyclical crises in military mental health care, and ultimately to transform the military’s mental healthcare policy and practice to better support our warrior class in the treatment of war stress injuries.
The Institute is the only known domestic or international academic entity dedicated to the principle of social justice with the overarching goal of ending cyclic failures in meeting the mental health needs of the warrior class. As expressed by philosopher George Santayana in 1905, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
To support the work of the Institute, Dr. Russell has brought together a world-class advisory board to provide counsel to the Institutes’ leadership team. In this role, the board offers insight and input, based on the considerable experience of its members, on the Institutes’ strategic objectives and help assess the impact of the Institute programs.