Mental health tests don't catch all troubled troops

Wed Oct 5, 2011 10:14am EDT

A soldier from the U.S. Army's 3rd Platoon, Centurion Company, 2-1 Infantry Battalion, 5/2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team keeps watch near Highway One during an operation in Maiwand District, Kandahar Province April 21, 2010. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne

A soldier from the U.S. Army's 3rd Platoon, Centurion Company, 2-1 Infantry Battalion, 5/2 Stryker Brigade Combat Team keeps watch near Highway One during an operation in Maiwand District, Kandahar Province April 21, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Tim Wimborne

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(Reuters) - Mental health assessments given to all soldiers after deployment may miss many cases of depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, according to a U.S. study.

The research, published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, involved about 3,500 soldiers who were in Iraq in 2007 to 2008 for their third deployment in six years.

Before they returned to Fort Stewart, Georgia, they completed a standard, computer-based post-deployment health assessment, which includes questions on PTSD and other mental health problems. This is not anonymous, and is meant to spot problems and help connect them with care when they get home.

But when returning soldiers took the screening tests anonymously, they were between twice and four times as likely to report mental health problems and to say they needed help, said the study.

"There is concern about the impact of seeking help on their career and on how others will perceive them," said Lieutenant Colonel Christopher Warner, one of the study's authors, with the U.S. Army Medical Activity - Alaska, at Fort Wainwright.

"(The study) tells us that we need to continue to work and to seek different mechanisms that will encourage soldiers to get help and understand that (getting treatment) is a strength, not a weakness."

About half the soldiers returning from deployment also completed an anonymous paper questionnaire with the same mental health screening questions.

Just over four percent of the returning troops met the criteria for depression or PTSD based on their standard health assessments. When they did the survey anonymously, though, 12 percent screened positive for at least one of the conditions.

Soldiers were also four times more likely to say they had thoughts of suicide on anonymous assessments.

Warner and his colleagues said that the findings don't show that the normal post-deployment screening test doesn't work, but that additional strategies are needed to encourage returning soldier to get the mental health care they need.

Some might not report depression or PTSD because they aren't confident that good services will be available to help them anyway, they added.

Warner said that in the past few years, the military has stepped up its efforts to make mental health services available in a range of settings, from primary care offices to over the phone.

"What we don't want to happen, is a soldier who asked for help once, and for any reason doesn't follow through with their care," he said.

But he added that the current study shows that more work is needed to continue to expand those opportunities for soldiers to get care for mental health problems, and to reverse the stigma associated with their care. SOURCE: bit.ly/o74mDG

(Reporting from New York by Genevra Pittman, editing by Elaine Lies)

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Comments (1)
sunnytoo wrote:
To all soldiers and returning troops, esp those with traumatic brain injuries, AVOID any contrasted MRI scans. They use metal injection of gadolinium for the magnets. It can have devastating effects up to 18 months later, ruin the kidneys with acute injury, or already damaged kidneys, the fda.gov-gadolinium knows about it, it’s a toxic poison, rare earth metal needed for the magnets in the radiofrequency electromagnetic coils on the mri. Neuro sx as well as falls, walking problems and later skin sores, diagnosed by inc dermal mucin. the worst is nephrogenic systemic fibrosis. Search it. Search MRI side effects. Never let them inject you with this. The “latest” technology is not the best, simple xray is fine. It cumulative and will eventually destroy you, mask the neuro sx and they’ll order more contrasted MRI’s or fMRI or functional MRI or SPECT and PET scans. Avoid MRA’s for the heart, they use 3x the gadolinium poison. Doesn’t matter if chelated, it breaks down. It happened to me, the MD’s ignored me, my symptoms, but I found out with the skin biopsy and the 2 MRI’s in < 3months at the VA. MD knew what he was ordering and the outcome of the extreme deep rib cage pain, dec renal function. Contact your Congressman re any problems with the VA healthcare. They will lie to you. Get records copied by you, or from DOD. Save your life.

Oct 06, 2011 2:38pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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