When I began Mental Hygiene, my recently completed novel about Vietnam era duty in a Mental Hygiene Clinic at Fort Jackson, SC, I had no idea the direct relevance it would have to the recent flood of articles about mental health in today's military.
The latest piece, in New York Magazine, The Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Wellbutrin, Celexa, Effexor, Valium, Klonopin, Ativan, Restoril, Xanax, Adderall, Ritalin, Haldol, Risperdal, Seroquel, Ambien, Lunesta, Elavil, Trazodone War, by Jennifer Senior, brought back all the feelings of guilt and shame from my real-life experience as an Army Psych Tech in 1967-68. I have come to realize all too clearly that what I had created in Mental Hygiene, was a preamble to an indictment of mental health treatment in today's military culture. I am convinced that voluntary cannon fodder is in many ways preferable, only because it does not dissent.
In Mental Hygiene the novel, darkly comedic scenes help to relieve the theme of mental health gone wrong. It's every man for himself in a world where there are only two types of draftees; those who are waiting to go to Vietnam and those who are already there. The stakes are high and the draft requirements low as the Nation gears up to half a million troops in an unpopular war. No one escapes unscathed, even in the fictional Mental Hygiene.