A new study shows a sharp increase in the instance of emotional disorders like PTSD and depression among soldiers. Who is at the highest risk?
The latest figures on mental health disorders among US service members show that mental health disorders in active-duty troops increased a whopping 65 percent since 2000. The alarming new numbers were released in a report by the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center.
The study spanned a dozen years – from 2000 to 2011 – and found that more than 936,000 service members had been diagnosed with at least one mental disorder. Of those diagnoses, about 85 percent were cases of adjustment disorders, depression, alcohol abuse and anxiety, among other conditions.
The study went on to show that from 2003 to 2008 the rate of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) increased nearly six-fold, with more than 100,000 diagnoses by 2011. The increase in deployments following the Sept. 11 attacks and the surge in military presence in both Iraq and Afghanistan is obviously a key factor in the increase.
They are hard statistics to hear and they leave many wondering how to respond. After all, when a soldier comes home with a physical injury, it’s easy to see that he or she is hurt, and the course of action is usually quite clear. When it comes to PTSD, the signs can be hard to recognize, and a diagnosis may be even harder to come by. Since all military personnel will face some sort of adjustment when returning from active duty, it can be difficult to distinguish what is normal from what is PTSD.
Not all mental health issues among soldiers are related solely to their military service. This latest study showed that nearly 70 percent of all mental health problems were related to "life circumstances," a category that includes deployment, bereavement and relationships.
The study also shows that some members of the military are at a higher risk than others. Women, service members 20 and younger and healthcare workers were the most vulnerable groups, according to the report. Rates of some mental health disorders among women were more than twice as high as men, while rates of mental illness for many diagnoses were highest among those 20 and younger. Healthcare workers also had relatively high rates of mental illness, particularly PTSD.
"These findings reinforce previous reports that have documented a rise in demand for mental health services in the active component force and suggest that continued focus on detection and treatment for mental health issues is warranted," the report said.
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