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Lazar, S.G. (2014). The Mental Health Needs of Military Service Members and Veterans. Psychodyn. Psych., 42(3):459-478.

(2014). Psychodynamic Psychiatry, 42(3):459-478

The Mental Health Needs of Military Service Members and Veterans

Susan G. Lazar, M.D.

The prevalence in active duty military service members of 30-day DSM-IV psychiatric disorders, including posttraumatic stress disorders and major depressive disorder, is greater than among sociodemographically-matched civilians. Only 23-40% of returning military who met strict criteria for any mental health problem in 2004 had received professional help in the past year. One-fourth of Regular Army soldiers meet criteria for a 30-day DSM-IV mental disorder, two-thirds of whom report a pre-enlistment age of onset. Both pre- and post-enlistment age of onset are predictors of severe role impairment which was reported by 12.8% of respondents. In addition, three-fifths of those with severe role impairment had at least one psychiatric diagnosis. The number of deployments, especially three or more, is positively correlated with all disorders, especially major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, and intermittent explosive disorder. Patients with posttraumatic stress disorder and major depressive disorder frequently have comorbidity with other psychiatric diagnoses and an increased death rate from homicide, injury, and cardiovascular disease, and are at increased risk of medical illness, smoking and substance abuse, decreased employment and work productivity, marital and family dysfunction and homelessness. Active duty suicides have increased from a rate lower than among civilians to one exceeding that in civilians in 2008. Suicides among veterans climbed to 22 per day in 2010 with male veterans having twice the risk of dying from suicide as their civilian counterparts. Associated extremely high costs of psychiatric illness in decreased productivity and increased morbidity and mortality can be ameliorated with appropriate treatment which is not yet fully available to veterans in need. In addition, Veterans Administration/Department of Defense treatment guidelines to date do not recognize the need for intensive and extended psychotherapies for chronic complex psychiatric conditions including personality disorders and chronic anxiety and depressive disorders. It has been suggested that treatment should be available for all military service member mental illness regardless of whether or not it predates military service, a goal which remains distant.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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