Secretary of Defense Robert Gates received the Department of Defense Task Force on Mental Health results and forwarded them to the Congress on June 14. The department will have six months to develop and implement a corrective action plan.
“This report points to significant shortfalls in achieving goals and taking care of our service members and their families,” said Dr. S. Ward Casscells, assistant secretary of defense for health affairs. “We will continue to address the need for mental health care in order to reinforce our commitment to providing the best care in the world to our service members and their families who deserve no less.”
Significant findings include:
- Mental health care stigma remains pervasive and is a significant barrier to care.
- Mental health professionals are not sufficiently accessible to service members and their families.
- There are significant gaps in the continuum of care for psychological health.
- The military system does not have enough resources, funding or personnel to adequately support the psychological health of service members and their families in peace and during conflict.
Implementation of recommendations and remedies to support our service members has already begun, to include:
- Military services have established dozens of deployment health clinics around the country.
- Mental health providers have been embedded in line units in Iraq and Afghanistan to perform initial treatment for combat stress and post -traumatic stress disorder.
- Service members are receiving additional mental health training to de-stigmatize when they need to reach out for help.
- The services are currently proactively exploring options to adequately resource their mental health care providers.
“I want to thank the members of the task force, the Congress, and especially our medical personnel who have been working so hard to provide compassionate care to our service members with the resources they have been given,” Casscells said.
The Task Force on Mental Health was congressionally directed and organized in June 2006 to assess and recommend actions for improving the efficacy of mental health services provided to service members and their families. It includes seven DoD members and seven non-DoD members.