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U.S. Service Members and Mental Health Disorders

Sept. 11, Afghanistan and Iraq wars, along with increased military outreach, linked to the rise
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The findings, reported in a recent issue of the Medical Surveillance Monthly Report, are based on medical records from active-duty U.S. service members for the years 2000 to 2012.

The study found that at any given point in 2012, about one in 29 troops were in treatment for a mental health disorder -- which was 2.5 times the rate in 2000.

A majority of those service members (58 percent) received just one treatment "course." But by 2012, more troops were receiving longer courses of treatment: The percentage of service members who went through "intensive treatment" -- more than 30 visits -- shot up nearly six-fold between 2000 and 2012.

The implication, Russell said, is that today's service members are receiving more care for their mental health issues. But, he added, it's impossible to know, from medical records, whether troops were getting the appropriate amount of care.

Concern about U.S. service members' mental health has grown in recent years, due to a rising suicide rate. Since 2009, the annual suicide rate has hovered around 18 per 100,000 active-duty troops -- versus 10 to 11 per 100,000 in 2005, according to government research.

A 2013 study found that those suicides seem to be unrelated to combat experience overseas. Instead, service members with depression or drinking problems -- whether they'd been deployed overseas or not -- were at increased suicide risk.

According to Borenstein, active-duty troops and veterans need to keep hearing the message that treatment -- whether talk therapy or medication -- is available.

"If you're experiencing symptoms of depression or PTSD, seek help," Borenstein said. "Asking for help is a sign of strength."

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