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Follow-Up Exams Uncover More Iraq Vets With Emotional Woes
Date:11/13/2007

It may take months for conditions like depression, PTSD to emerge, study says

TUESDAY, Nov. 13 (HealthDay News) -- The number of Iraq war veterans needing mental-health care has risen sharply since the U.S. Defense Department began screening them a second time for emotional problems, U.S. military researchers reported Tuesday.

Initial screenings of veterans uncovered 4.4 percent who needed treatment for problems such as depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). But six months later, a second screening found 11.7 percent were in need of mental health care, indicating that it might take several months for emotional disorders to emerge, the study suggested.

"We know mental health problems are a problem for soldiers who have been to war," said lead researcher Dr. Charles S. Milliken, of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research at the U.S. Army Medical Research and Materiel Command. "We are doing a good thing by having erected these screening programs. Between the two screenings, we are finding a large group of soldiers that are having problems."

The findings are published in the Nov. 14 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

For the study, Milliken and his colleagues collected data on the mental health of 88,235 Iraq war veterans who completed an initial screening and a second screening about six months later. Both screenings included a questionnaire and a short interview with a clinician.

"In the second screening, you do find a larger group of soldiers the first screening completely missed," Milliken said. "It's about twice as big."

The researchers found that more soldiers had mental health problems -- such as PTSD, major depression or alcohol abuse -- during the later screening. In the first screening, 4.4 percent of the soldiers were referred for mental health care, but, after the second screening, 11.7 percent were referred.

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