Prescreening soldiers before combat lessens psychiatric difficulties after deployment

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Prescreening soldiers for mental health problems was associated with less instance of mental health crisis during deployment. According to the observational study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry online, after six months soldiers that had been screened had lower rates of suicidal ideation, at 0.4% (95% CI 0.3 to 0.5); this compared to 0.9% (95% CI 0.7 to 1.1) of individuals that did not undergo mental health screening before deployment. Additionally, screened soldiers reported less combat stress (15.7%, 95% CI 15 to 16.4); individuals who had not been screened before deployment had higher rates of combat stress (22%, 95% CI 21.2 to 22.8). Christopher H. Warner, MD, of Command and General Staff College in Fort Leavenworth, Kan., and colleagues, commenting on the findings, said, “This is a timely and important study, considering the congressional mandate to conduct such screenings uniformly in all deploying personnel… the results show that an aggressive program of mental health screening, tracking, and coordination of care may enhance a unit’s functioning while decreasing negative soldier outcomes.” Click here to read an article from USA Today that discusses this study more.

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