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Thursday, November 15, 2007

War-Related Trauma in Soldiers May Only Surface Months After Returning Home

If Soldiers were screened twice instead of just once after they return from war zones may help to catch more war-related mental health problems, according to an study that is published by the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Soldiers reported more mental health concerns and were referred at significantly higher rates from the PDHRA than from the PDHA. Based on the combined screening, clinicians identified 20.3% of active and 42.4% of reserve component soldiers as requiring mental health treatment. Concerns about interpersonal conflict increased 4-fold. Soldiers frequently reported alcohol concerns, yet very few were referred to alcohol treatment. Most soldiers who used mental health services had not been referred, even though the majority accessed care within 30 days following the screening. Although soldiers were much more likely to report PTSD symptoms on the PDHRA than on the PDHA, 49% to 59% of those who had PTSD symptoms identified on the PDHA improved by the time they took the PDHRA. There was no direct relationship of referral or treatment with symptom improvement.

Rescreening soldiers several months after their return from Iraq identified a large cohort missed on initial screening. The large clinical burden recently reported among veterans presenting to Veterans Affairs facilities seems to exist within months of returning home, highlighting the need to enhance military mental health care during this period. Increased relationship problems underscore shortcomings in services for family members. Reserve component soldiers who had returned to civilian status were referred at higher rates on the PDHRA, which could reflect their concerns about their ongoing health coverage. Lack of confidentiality may deter soldiers with alcohol problems from accessing treatment. In the context of an overburdened system of care, the effectiveness of population mental health screening was difficult to ascertain.
The Study could be found here.



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