Between A Rucksack and a Hard Place

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Photo Illustration by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Timesstory last weekend on “our medicated military” reactivated the long-standing debate about Soldiers and other Service members being prescribed anti-depressants and other psychiatric medications while on deployment.

I would like to make the argument that there are no good answers here. The well-intentioned people who are trying to keep Soldiers from being deployed to combat repeatedly do not understand the secondary effects of what would happen if their plans were carried out.

If the military did not deploy Soldiers on anti-depressants, it harms the careers of those Soldiers.  These days, if you do not deploy you will not get promoted, and may be separated.

Thus if the military kept everyone who at one time had a PTSD diagnosis out of combat, a large number of soldiers would conceal their symptoms, instead of coming forth for help.

If the military separated these Soldiers, they would lose health benefits and jobs in a difficult economy. In addition, PTSD would be a label that would be the equivalent of being permanently broken.

If there is a large pool of non-deployable Soldiers, then others would have to deploy more frequently.

What happens to trying to reduce stigma then?

In my opinion, the best solution is to grow the Army. That requires the support of the American taxpayer.

Of course, if the American public was willing, we could reinstitute the draft. Or the well-intentioned critics could volunteer to go themselves.

No easy choices here. Between a rucksack, the rock of untreated PTSD, or the hard choice of unemployment and/or living on the street.

Or, we could end all wars. But based on the last decade, that is unlikely to happen any time soon.

So, I think treating Soldiers with effective anti-depressant therapy for PTSD and allowing them to deploy, if they are fit for deployment, is the best short-term solution.

Thanks to those who wrote in to give comments on this issue.