- Explain to patients who ask that this and other studies have consistently found that one-fourth to one-third of veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan return home with mental health problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
SAN FRANCISCO, March 12 -- A quarter of all veterans treated at VA hospitals after returning home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan brought mental health problems back with them, reported investigators here.
When psychosocial and behavioral problems were thrown into the mix, nearly a third of all veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq who sought care at VA facility had a diagnosis of a mental-health-related disorder, reported Karen H. Seal, M.D., M.P.H., from the University of California San Francisco, and the San Francisco VA, and colleagues.
And more than half of the returning vets who had a mental health diagnosis were found to have two or more mental health disorders, the investigators wrote in the March 12 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.
Previous studies have shown that only one in five veterans returning from combat duty in Iraq or Afghanistan with signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is actually screened for it, the Government Accountability Office reported last May.
Using data provided by the Department of Defense, GAO investigators found in review that 9,145 (5%) of the 178,664 service men and women deployed in Afghanistan or Iraq may be at risk for developing PTSD, but only 2,029 (22%) of the at-risk group were referred for further mental health evaluations.
In March of 2006, researchers from the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association that 35% of Iraq war veterans sought mental health services for any reason in the year after returning home. Of them, 12% per year received a diagnosis of a mental health problem, the investigators found, and an additional 23% per year were seen in mental health clinics but did not receive a diagnosis.