Fort Bragg Killings Prompt Mental Health Screening for Returning Soldiers

After the killings of four women this summer in Fort Bragg, North Carolina allegedly by their enlisted husbands, three of whom had recently returned from Afghanistan, the US military announced yesterday it will screen soldiers heading home for signs of mental health problems. Investigators are also looking into the possible side effects of Larium, a common drug prescribed to soldiers to protect against malaria. While its manufacturer, Hoffman-LaRoche, Inc. warns that side effects can include “neurological and psychiatric disorders,” the World Health Organization estimates that severe effects are only experienced by five out of 100,000. Frank Ochberg, former associate director of the National Institute of Mental Health, told the Associated Press that studies have not shown a strong correlation between domestic violence and the post-traumatic stress disorder commonly experienced by soldiers returning from combat. Ochberg points out that “far more often domestic violence has to do with bullying, jealousy, desire to control a spouse.” In the military, the rate of domestic violence incidents rose from 18.6 to 25.6 per 1,000 military personnel between 1990 and 1996. Since then, the rate has decreased to 16.5 per 1,000 in 2001, but still remains much higher than in the civilian population, which has 3.1 incidents of domestic violence per 1,000 people, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Though numbers are not available for the past 10 months, the downward trend may be reversing, according to Christine Hansen, executive director of the Miles Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides services to domestic abuse victims in the military community. “We have seen through our clients alone an increase in the number of domestic violence incidents since mid-October as well as an increase in the severity of abuse,” she told the Journal-Constitution.


Associated Press 8/30/02, 8/21/02; Atlanta Journal-Constitution 8/30/02

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