Occupational Health & Safety

More Major Depression, Substance Use Among Deployed Personnel

Authors of a study published in a March supplement to the American Journal of Public Health confirmed both diagnoses are more likely for those deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan.

The authors of a study published in a March supplement to the American Journal of Public Health say their findings about major depression and substance use disorder among deployed Army and Marine personnel should cause the Department of Defense to reassess its current resources and manpower for treating personnel who need mental health services.

The study of 678,382 active duty personnel who served between 2001 and 2006 found the Army and Marine personnel who were deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan had a greater likelihood of being diagnosed with one of these problems than non-deployed personnel or those who served in the Navy or Air Force. The authors used deployment information from the Contingent Tracking System to identify individuals diagnosed with substance use disorders and major depression from TRICARE health records.

"Our study provided valuable insight for the mental health readiness of the U.S. armed services and implications for potential, continued support of ongoing operations and their post-deployment health care needs," the authors said, according to the summary posted by APHA. "Given the continuing U.S. military presence in Afghanistan and other parts of the world, and the increasing trend in major mental health conditions reported in the U.S. military, it would be important for the Department of Defense to access whether the current system has adequate resources and manpower to handle the increasing number of active duty personnel who need mental health services."

The contact among the authors is Yu-Chu Shen of the Graduate School of Business and Public Policy, Naval Post-graduate School, in Monterey, Calif., yshen@nps.edu.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers extensive mental health and substance use disorder (SUD) assistance. An online page allows users to search for SUDs programs in all 50 states and U.S. territories, and it notes VA Medical Centers and other VA facilities offer SUD Treatment.

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