Health Team

Army Helps Returning GIs with More Mental-Health Screenings

Posted November 13, 2007

— Soldiers returning from combat often bring home mental issues – perhaps depression, perhaps post-traumatic stress disorder. The military has undertaken an effort to diagnose and treat soldiers with a new mental-health screening process.

Tom Williams served in the combat zones of Iraq and Afghanistan for more than a year. Now he's retired.

“I spent the first six months I was back looking at the ground to make sure I didn't get my legs blown off. And I was looking at the ground in the mall, and I looked at the ground in McDonald’s.

As with Williams, readjustment to civilian life is a challenge for many soldiers. That’s why Army researchers reviewed their mental-health screening programs.

Soldiers are screened after they return from combat, and a newer program screens them about six months after they arrive home.

“It picks up a second group of soldiers who were not identified on the first screen, and it's actually a larger group of soldiers who had the mental health problems,” said Dr. Charles Milliken of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research.

The Army's research results are published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Doctors reported that they found the second screen picked up significantly more mental health issues, such as an almost 17 percent increase in interpersonal conflicts.

They also said that the second screening and mental-health training soldiers receive actually encourage soldiers to seek care when they need it.

“We know soldiers tend to have stigma about going in to get mental-health care, so something about the screening-training process is countering that stigma and making it more OK for them to get care,” Col. Milliken said.

Tom Williams agreed, saying the second screening just makes sense.

“It takes time for reactions to start, and it takes time for you to recognize that there's something wrong, that your behaviors are not just affecting you. They're affecting someone you probably love or care for,” Williams said.

There is another piece to the mental-health improvements, too. Soldiers go through what's called "Battlemind Training" with other members of their unit.

It helps them understand common problems that other soldiers have reported experiencing after a year of combat.


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  • dell Nov 14, 2007

    We are soldiers......not GI's.

  • WTFmph Nov 14, 2007

    It's good the government is trying to help the people that were shredded by their military machine.

    Post battle induced psychoses can create some of the most dangerous psychopaths, probably only second to severely abused children. So this is help not only for some of the surviving victims of the war, but for us as a society at large.

    It has been so sad for me to see the homeless kooks created by the Vietnam War that have been largely ignored by our government.

    It's hard to trust in the good intentions of the war mongers, but this does sound positive.

  • carolinagirl75 Nov 13, 2007

    I agree with the above post. This is step forward, but the military, and our society as a whole, still needs to go a lot further to erasing the stigma of mental health issues. People will readily admit to having heart conditions or cancer, but will suffer mental disorders (just as physical) in silence.

  • NCMOMof3 Nov 13, 2007

    this is wonderful that the army is trying to identify problems. Now, are they going to help with the problems they find? And will the soldiers they "identify" as having a "problem" be flagged in someway. I trust the military will see these men and women get the help they need without the stigma often attached.