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Army Documents Link Between Murder and Mental Illness, Addiction

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Combat stress and behavioral-health problems were underlying causes in most cases where soldiers at a key Army base committed murder after returning from war zones, the Colorado Springs Gazette reported July 15.

The report came after a half-dozen Fort Carson, Colo., soldiers were charged with murder over a six-month period last year. “Soldiers allegedly involved in crimes related to homicide at Fort Carson from 2005-2008 were, in retrospect, at risk for engaging in violent behavior based on a clustering of known risk factors for violence, namely prior criminal behavior and psychopathology,” the report said.

Army officials said that a mix of addiction problems, mental illness and leadership failures — including inadequate attention to identifying and treating soldiers' underlying problems — contributed to the killings. “Those three in combination are a really toxic mix,” said Army surgeon general Lt. Gen. Eric Schoomaker.

The report also noted a possible correlation between the degree of combat exposure and the likelihood of engaging in violent crime when soldiers return home, although Army officials refuted that connection, noting a broader study showing that 65 percent of crimes committed by Army personnel were attributed to soldiers who had not been to war.

Fort Carson officials said the findings have led to more intense efforts to train personnel to recognize signs of mental illness and ensure that soldiers who test positive for drugs or are identified as problem drinkers get addiction treatment. Most of the soldiers who committed murder in and around the Colorado base had a history of addiction problems, but fewer than half had received treatment, the Army study found.

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