As of 2012, more than 3.6 million men and women were members of the US military, Military One Source reports. Of them, active duty members account for many, as follows:
- 546,057 in the Army
- 328,812 in the Air Force
- 314,339 in the Navy
- 198,820 in the Marine Corp
- 41,849 belonging to the DHS Coast Guard
Being in the military isn’t easy. The dutiful partner, parents, and children alike must bid adieu to their loved one on a regular basis, sometimes knowing it could be the last time they ever see them again. The most recent data from the Federation of American Scientists notes 6,826 combined servicemen and women have died while in combat under Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation New Dawn, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation Inherent Resolve, in addition to the 52,281 who have sustained injuries.
Those who enter combat often suffer long-term side effects that they could never have predicted — many of which are mental health-related, like depression, anxiety, and more. One of the most common issues men and women in the service face post-combat is post-traumatic stress disorder. Among those same individuals in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation New Dawn, and Operation Enduring Freedom, a reported 128,496 have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, Medium.com notes. It is most common among:
- Military members
- Rape and assault victims
- Those who have witnessed a trauma
- Those who are exposed to repeated traumas
- Anxiety that manifests in emotional or physical ways over the trauma
- Avoidance of triggers, including things, people, and places that remind one of the trauma
- Repetitive and undesired memories of the trauma
- Nightmares about the trauma
Some soldiers even face the effects of PTSD without directly experiencing any trauma. This isn’t uncommon among PTSD sufferers; many can develop the disorder from hearing secondhand stories of traumatic events. Others experience it after witnessing their fellow soldiers being attacked or killed.
- Lengthy deployments
- Multiple deployments
- Violation of expectations such as an extension on a deployment
- Not getting enough sleep
- Shortened periods of time between deployments
- Having to deal with more strenuous types of combat, like handling human remains
- Not feeling adequately trained for the job
- Sustaining injuries
- Being a victim of sexual assault in the military
- Lacking uniformity and a tight bond within the military unit
Substance abuse among service members
Mental illness is also quite common among substance abusers and addicts, and substance abuse occurs with military men and women. Service members are not exempt from real-life troubles that plague everyday civilians, and this includes alcohol and drug abuse.
Substance abuse rates are actually pretty low among service members when comparing them to civilians. As of 2008, the National Institute on Drug Abuse noted only around 2.3 percent of military members reported past-month illicit substance use versus 12 percent of the general population. The most commonly abused substances by military members are prescription opioid pain relievers, which many begin using via legitimate prescriptions that are given after injuries sustained in combat.