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U-M Health Minute: Today's Top Health Issues and Medical Research
Date:1/5/2009

ANN ARBOR, Mich., Jan. 5 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- When Lamont Christian returned from war, he often felt angry, afraid and unworthy. Years later, Christian found himself living in a homeless shelter, a sign that time had not healed his emotional wounds.

He went to the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System for help, and there, he learned the root of his problems: he was suffering from depression, post- traumatic stress disorder and anger management problems. Now, he wants others to learn from his experience.

"If I had a message to give to veterans who are coming out of the military now or even veterans who have been out for a long period of time, it's that nothing is going to happen in your life unless you go and get the help you need," he says.

Christian is a veteran of Vietnam, but his experience holds true for soldiers returning from current battlegrounds as well.

Nearly a third of veterans who are treated at Veterans Affairs health care centers have significant depressive symptoms, and about 13 percent have clinically diagnosed depression, says Marcia Valenstein, M.D., clinical psychiatrist with the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System and associate professor of psychiatry with the University of Michigan Health System.

Depression is a "very potent" risk factor for suicide among people receiving treatment for depression at the VA, she notes, with a suicide rate that is three times higher than that of the overall VA patient population.

Such high rates led Valenstein and her colleagues to study the best time to provide intensive interventions to veterans with depression to prevent suicide. In a study just published by the Journal of Affective Disorders, the researchers found that veterans with depression were at highest risk for suicide in the 12 weeks after they were hospitalized for psychiatric conditions.

"This finding highlights the n
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SOURCE University of Michigan Health System
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