TUESDAY, Jan. 18 (HealthDay News) -- Stringent mental health
screening before deployment appeared to reduce the rate of
psychiatric and behavioral problems among U.S. Army soldiers in
Iraq by 78 percent, a new study has found.
Among other things, suicidal thoughts and actions fell by half,
according to the results of the study, which were released online
Tuesday in advance of publication in an upcoming print issue of the
American Journal of Psychiatry.
Army Major Christopher Warner and colleagues studied more than
20,000 soldiers in six infantry brigades -- three that received
screening through a mental health program before deployment and
three that didn't. Soldiers were on duty in Iraq during the
2007-2008 surge, and researchers tracked them for six months at the
start of their deployment.
The screening process includes the completion of a behavioral
health form that triggers mental health evaluations if they're
deemed necessary. Soldiers found to be psychotic or have bipolar
disorder aren't deployed.
The researchers found that soldiers in screened brigades were
less likely to need duty restrictions and evacuations by air for
mental health reasons. "It's vitally important to know whether
mental health screening works, for both military functioning and
the welfare of individual soldiers, and this is the first time the
program's been assessed systematically," Warner said in a news
release from the American Psychiatric Association.
For more on
mental health, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.