A pen in a stomach. A bullet in the toe. A jump off a roof. These incidents all end with a trip to the ER, but never in a tour of Iraq. For soldiers desperate to avoid a repeat tour in the Middle East, these "accidents" are missions accomplished.
Self-harm is a rising, and alarming, trend among soldiers headed to Iraq — especially those on their second or third trip. "Some soldiers," said Col. Kathy Platoni, an Army Reserve psychologist, "will do almost anything not to go back."
It's a shocking, though sadly not new, trend. To see when it began, read more.
All the way back to World War I, the American Journal of Psychiatry documented hospital beds filled with self-made bullet wounds, punctured eardrums, and slashed Achilles heels — an "epidemic of self-inflicted injuries." And while there are no hard numbers, for past wars or this one, the consensus is that it's worse than ever. The news makes Klinger's lady-clothes protest pale in comparison.
This combined with 2007's record-setting suicide rates and mounting cases of PTSD illuminates a problem that the Army can no longer ignore. "We're definitely concerned," said Col. Elspeth Ritchie, the Army's top psychologist, "we hope they'll talk to us rather than self-harm."
Though talking is a hopeful solution, it seems like shooting oneself in the toe is about as loud as anyone can yell. And the message is clear: We're done. For those who've been there once, some twice — this is a desperate measure to say they don't want to go back. Is news like this inevitable in a time of war — or a crisis crying for immediate attention?