Before the Troubles Begin

Predeployment screening reduces mental health complications among military personnel

(RxWiki News) Researchers from the U.S. Army have found that screening for mental health conditions prior to deployment reduces psychiatric and behavioral problems among soldiers.

Approximately one third of all soldiers who return from Operation Iraqi Freedom receive mental health screening, prevention, and treatment services within the first year of returning home. However, predeployment screening is much less common.

Recently, the U.S. Army established new procedures for predeployment mental health screening. In order to assess the impact of these new procedures, Major Christopher Warner and colleagues studied more than 20,000 soldiers. The researchers compared soldiers screened with the new procedures to soldiers deployed before the program began.

They found that the new use of predeployment screening reduced psychiatric and behavioral problems by 78 percent. The incidence of combat stress reactions was reduced by 29 percent. Even better, rates of suicidal thoughts and behaviors were cut in half.

According to Major Warner, this study is important because it is the first systematic assessment of whether mental health screening actually works. Such an assessment is not only important for the cohesive functioning of the military but also for the well-being of individual soldiers.

The study's findings were published on January 18 the American Psychiatric Association's AJP in Advance.

Review Date: 
January 25, 2011