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Mental Illness: Depression

Mental illness refers to psychological problems that create difficulties in communication  with others as well as  make them feel rejected by the society. Depression is a type of mental illness where an individual doubts all actions and regrets for past. This paper evaluates depression in the book The Things They Carried.  The paper argues  that the government has to do more in order to improve the lives of the ex-soldiers as well as help them cope with the depression that is caused by the post-war events. The government has not done enough.

The book is a fictional story that was written by an ex-soldier who was in the Vietnam War. Regardless of the fact that many years have passed since the war ended, the soldiers who went to Vietnam continue to be haunted by the war (O’Brien 37). One thing that increases their depression is that after the war, they expected that they would be honored for their work in the foreign mission. However, there was no honor or respect that was accorded to them. This means that a major cause of depression for the soldiers is the fact that they did not achieve their goals as depicted in the story “…the general was forced to retire and take a ceremonial position” (Visweswaran, Kamala 80). The book explains how some generals are treated by the governments fearing that their authority in the army after war can be dangerous. Some soldiers expected medals and but got none. There are many such incidences where soldiers risk their lives in various missions, but their efforts are not welcomed. “They carried emotional baggage of men who might die” (O’Brien 20), is a statement that explains the emotions of soldiers due to terrifying incidences they faced during the war. In some cases, only the leaders in teams are awarded medals.


The post war graphics is another factor that leads to depression the ex-soldiers. The fictional story tells that some of the soldiers still remember the graphics of the war, where they can remember the people they killed as well as the friends who were killed because of the mistakes that they made. This makes these soldiers regret for the mistakes that they made and fear that they should not tell anyone. O’Brien states that (16) “…Lavender was now dead and this is something he would carry like a stone in his stomach…”. This is an example of a soldier regretting because of a dead colleague that he loved. This is why they are sometimes isolated from the other people as they struggle to ensure that they do not tell about themselves (Maddi 75). Depression can lead to other illnesses that are dangerous to such soldiers. It is also traumatizing to remember the events, expositions, the dead bodies that they faced in the war, which  leads even to committing suicides (Lennox, Gina 245). Many studies reveal that the guilt that the soldiers feel makes them commit suicide.

Though the soldiers try to forget the events that they faced in the war, they still face the scenes in their dreams. In some other cases, they daydream, and they think a lot how they would change the situation. This is evidenced by the fact that “the stresses and fractures, the quick collapse and the two of them buried under all that weight” (O’Brien 11). This is how one soldier remembers events in the war during the day. This adds to their depression since they cannot do much during the day. The depression of such soldiers has to be addressed if the government cares about its soldiers. Even in the modern world, where technology is used, the cases of depression among the soldiers still persist. The use of drones in wars exposes the soldiers to traumatizing scenes that depress them because killing innocent people was in the course of their duties (Camp 70).

The greatest support that the ex-soldiers can get derives from their family members and other relatives as well as friends. However, the fictional story describes how the ex-soldiers do not receive the reception that they expected from their relatives. The family members do not view them as great achievers and instead, seclude them. The soldiers lack the stories they can tell about the days in their war. There is nothing good about wars, and this means that one cannot tell what happens in the wars because the soldiers think that it is not interesting. In The Things They Carried, a girl tells her father to write something that is at least good about the war, and this shows that the people in the society are bored hearing the problems and challenges that the soldiers face in the war. It can be proved by the following saying from the book: “find new stories to tell. I won’t say it but will think it” (O’Brien 81). The bad things that happen in the war do not interest even family members, and such unwillingness to talk leaves the ex-soldiers alone leading to depression. 

To help the ex-soldiers that are involved in combat, there is a need to have in place a program where the soldiers can chat with medical experts who then inform them on the ways to handle the depression. “The post combat screening centers reveal incidences of depression for soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan” (Tanielian, Terri L, and Lisa Jaycox 47). There is a need to intervene early so that the effects of depression are eliminated at an initial stage. Various armed forces have specialists who help advice the ex-soldiers. This is an important move, but the government should be actively involved in support of these people.

“I can’t believe, I can’t believe that I am suffering all this depression” says the soldier, who was demoralized by the poor reception by the society (Scannell-Desch, Elizabeth, and Mary 170). The members of the society should also take the initiative of ensuring that the relatives from the combat zones are treated well so that they do not suffer from depression. There is a need to listen to their stories, even unpleasant ones,  as well as share with them their various thought. “Soldiers spend a lot of time alone, and this increases the risk of thinking about their service days” (Camp 56). Consequently, it can help the individuals avoid depression considering that they lack the time that they would spend thinking about the combat events. The family members should prepare good meals that comprise a balanced diet which is important for the ex-soldiers. They can also accompany the ex-soldiers in nature walking, which helps them relax.

There are various evidence of depression of ex-soldiers including self-hatred, rejection, feeling of isolation, and regret about the decisions that they made. O’Brien (18) states “they would touch their bodies feeling shame and then quickly hiding it”. Moreover, “spouses of the veterans are also depressed as they adjust to life changes and worries of the survivors” (Reque-Dragicevic 105). Soldiers are not willing to tell anyone that they are not happy with what they did. The effects of this can be adverse ranging from alcoholism to suicide. There is a need to intervene to ensure that the people who dedicate their lives to serving the nation live better lives after their services.

In conclusion, the book The Things They Carried is a fictional story that seeks to explain depression among the ex-soldiers who were involved in combat activities. It is a wakeup call for the society to support these people because of their dedication to serving their nation. The relatives and friends should provide these soldiers with their company, listen and share ideas with them so that they do not feel lonely and rejected. The government should also ensure that they honor such people, so that they feel happy and appreciated. The soldiers can also gather to help some of their colleagues that are affected by the events in the war fields. The soldiers should take care of themselves and avoid bad behaviors that may worsen their depression. They should get enough sleep, visit various places they are interested in, and avoid the use of drugs. The government has a duty to ensure that these people get support from professionals that have expertise in dealing with mental illnesses such as depression.