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Army Report on Mental Health of Soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq

Published March 6, 2008

This US Army report, produced by the fifth Mental Health Advisory Team, discusses the mental health and morale of soldiers deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq in fall, 2007.

The report presented the following central findings:

"Central Findings from OIF (Operation Iraqi Freedom)
a. Mental Health and Morale. The percent of Soldiers screening positive for mental health problems is similar to previous years (17.9% for a combined measure of acute stress, depression or anxiety). Reports of unit morale showed a significant increase from 2006.
b. Combat Exposure. Reported levels of combat exposure varied significantly among units; however, there was an overall decline in reports of combat. The decline was most pronounced among Soldiers deployed 6 months or less.
c. Behavioral Health Care Delivery. Compared to 2006, Soldiers reported more difficulty accessing behavioral health services, but lower stigma associated with seeking care. Behavioral health personnel reported a shortage of behavioral health assets and higher burnout,
d. Role of Behavioral Health Officers. Behavioral health personnel reported significant increases in advising commanders about Soldier mental health issues.
e. Deployment Length. Reports of work-related problems due to stress, mental health problems and marital separations generally increased with each subsequent month of the deployment. Reports of mental health problems declined in the last third of the deployment likely due to redeployment optimism.
f. Multiple Deployers. Soldiers on their third or fourth deployment were at significantly higher risk than Soldiers on their first or second deployment for mental health problems and work-related problems.
g. Concussions. In all, 11.2% of Soldiers met the screening criteria for mild traumatic brain injuries. Less than half of these (45.9%) reported being evaluated for a concussion.
h. Battlemind Training. Soldiers who received pre-deployment Battlemind training reported fewer mental health problems.
i. Suicide. Suicide rates continue to be elevated relative to historic Army rates. Most suicides involve failed relationships with spouses or intimate partners.

Central Findings from OEF (Operation Enduring Freedom)
a. Mental Health. Soldiers in OEF reported rates of mental health problems (acute stress, depression, anxiety) similar to rates observed in OIF MHAT missions.
b. Combat Exposure. Brigade Combat Team (BCT) Soldiers in OEF reported levels of combat exposure similar to or higher than levels reported by BCTs in Iraq.
c. Barriers to Care. Soldiers reported significant barriers to mental health care, and behavioral health personnel reported difficulties getting to Soldiers.
d. Role of Leadership. Soldiers who report high combat experiences and poor leadership report very high levels of mental health problems. Findings replicate using OIF data.
e. Suicide. Suicide rates were elevated relative to historic Army rates."

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