Iraq vets have higher risk for mental health problems than previously thought
Screenings conducted immediately upon the return of US vets of the Iraq war may not have fully indicated the severity of their mental health encumbrance. A total of 88,000 health assessments were completed immediately after, and then six months later, by returning soldiers; these health assessments were then evaluated by army researchers. Approximately 17% of army reservists and active duty soldiers that completed the assessments immediately upon their return were found to have mental health problems. Reservists were reported to have a higher risk for depression, PTSD, and other mental health concerns. The surveys taken six months later showed an increased percentage of both groups needed or were already engaged in mental health care, 42% of reservists and 20% of active soldiers. The following is an excerpt of an article from the associated press with more details:
The euphoria of a soldier’s homecoming from Iraq often gives way to depression, stress and trouble dealing with family members during the first months home, a new Pentagon study finds.
And the adjustment struggle was more profound for National Guard troops and reservists than it was for active-duty soldiers.
About 42 percent of the Guard and reserves, compared to 20 percent of active-duty troops, were identified as needing mental health treatment in two screenings. The first testing was immediately upon return from Iraq and the second six months later.
Problems showed up more often on the second screening. From the time they returned, there was a fourfold increase in interpersonal problems, for example, likely driven by family conflicts as the returning soldiers adjusted to home life.
Almost a third of the more than 88,000 returning soldiers in the study had signs of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, conflicts in relationships or other problems after six months.
That compared to about 17 percent when the soldiers first got home, according to the report that appears in Wednesday’s Journal of the American Medical Association.
“We’re trying to study these mental health impacts as the war unfolds and we’re trying to apply what we’re learning to set up new systems of care,” said Dr. Charles Milliken of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, who led the study.