Psychological Effects of War
The morality of wars have often been a subject of debate. There is no doubt that wars cause economic and ecological problems, aside from the lives that are destroyed. More often than not, innocent civilians who has no participation in the battle are also affected either directly through violence, or indirectly through the economic effects caused by war. More importantly, wars cause psychological effects, combatants and non-combatants alike.
Bob Herbert relates the story of Jeffrey Lucey about the psychological effects of war on soldiers. Jeffrey was recruited to join the marines when he was 18. His parents wanted him to go to college and he himself was “ambivalent” (Herbert). The recruiter, however, “was a very smooth talker and very, very persistent” such that Jeffrey was convinced to join (Herbert). When the Bush administration declared war against Iraq, many Americans welcomed it, chanting “USA! USA!” Jeffrey, on the other hand, had a different perspective. “He had no illusions about the glory or glamour of warfare,” Herbert explained. Jeffrey was part of the first wave of troops to be sent in Iraq. There is an entry on his diary relating an explosion of a Scud missile: “The noise was just short of blowing out your eardrums. Everyone’s heart truly skipped a beat… Nerves are on edge” (Herbert). When he came home, Jeffrey exhibited signs of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression: “he had nightmares. He drank furiously. He withdrew from his friends. He wrecked his parent’s car. He began to hallucinate… In a moment of deep despair… Jeffrey hurled his dogtags at his sister Debra and cried out, ‘Don’t you know your brother’s a murderer?’” (Herbert). On the evening of June 22, 2004, Jeffrey was found dead in their basement. Out of despression, Jeffrey had committed suicide.
Depression and post-traumatic stress disorders are common to those who have been affected by war. “They rip the mind and the soul in the same way that bullets and bombs mutilate the body,” Herbert explains. Dave Grossman held that “there is no escaping the conclusion that combat, and the killing that lies in the heart of combat, is an extraordinarily traumatic and psychologically costly endeavor that profoundly impacts all who participate in it… Indeed, for the combatants in every major war fought in this century, there has been a greater probability of becoming a psychiatric casualty than of being killed by enemy fire.” Psychiatric casualty is defined as “a combatant who is no longer able to participate in combat due to mental (as opposed to physical) debilitation” (Grossman).
Combatants are not the only ones inflicted with the psychological effects of war. More often than not, unarmed civilians are also afflicted with violence. During World War II, non-military cities are are bombarded by both sides to create psychological casualties among civilians. If soldiers who are well aware of the harshness and difficulties of war could suffer post-traumatic stress disorders and depressions, how much more it could bring to innocent civilians. Grossman held that “these civilian populations suffered fear and horror of a magnitude that few humans will ever experience.”
Realizing that war can bring upon psychological effects, governments should create a program to address this problem. Jeffrey’s family tried to seek help for their son while he was still alive, but military institutions, or even the Veterans Administration, are not “equipped to cope with the war’s mounting emotional and and psychological casualties” (Herbert). They shared their story in the hope that it “will bring more attention to the awful struggle faced by so many troops suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and other emotional illnesses” (Herbert).
Grossman, Dave and Bruce K. Siddle. 2000. “Psychological effects of Combat.” Encyclopedia of Violence, Peace, and Conflict, Vol. 3, p. 159
Herbert, Bob. 19 March 2007. “Death of a marine.” New York Times. 16 July 2008. <http://select.nytimes.com/2007/03/19/opinion/19herbert.html>
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