Chiarelli: Mental wounds 'no phantom issue'

By Jenny StriplingOctober 7, 2009

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 7, 2009) -- The "signature wounds of this war" are post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, said Gen. Peter Chiarelli, vice chief of staff of the Army.

Speaking at the Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting and Exposition Tuesday, Chiarelli addressed a forum on Health Promotion, Risk Reduction and Suicide Prevention.

"I want to change the stigma linked to these wounds," Chiarelli said about PTSD and TBI. "They are in fact real. These are not phantom issues made up by weak Soldiers. They are as real as if you fell and broke your leg or lost an arm."

Cases of PTSD and TBI have grown from 38 percent to 52 percent since August 2008 among Soldiers involved in incidents in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The Army has seen a significant increase in the number of Soldiers suffering from these conditions since 2006 when there were 102 confirmed suicides. In 2007, there were 115 suicides. In 2008, the Army had 143 confirmed suicides.

About 30 percent of Soliders sent downrange will have some form of post traumatic stress disorder, Chiarelli said.

He said it is also important for senior leaders to be aware of the importance of dealing with these issues head on, and that it is senior leaders whom Soldiers turn to for positive influence.

"Leaders need to be careful on the tone they use with this issue," Chiarelli said. "It affects how their subordinates view these conditions and if you believe anxiety and depression are signs of weakness, so will they."