Veteran and Military Mental Health Issues

Book
In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 Jan.
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Excerpt

As the United States endures 2 decades of ongoing warfare, both the media and individuals with personal military connections have raised significant public and professional concerns about the mental health of veterans and service members. The most widely publicized mental health challenges veterans and service members encounter are posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression. Research indicates that approximately 14% to 16% of the US service members deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq have been affected by PTSD or depression. Although these mental health concerns are prominently highlighted, it is crucial to acknowledge that other issues, such as suicide, traumatic brain injury (TBI), substance use disorder (SUD), and interpersonal violence, can be equally detrimental in this population. These challenges can have far-reaching consequences, significantly affecting service members and their families. Although combat and deployments are known to be associated with increased risks for these mental health conditions, general military service can also give rise to challenges. The presentation of these mental health concerns may not follow a specific timeline. However, there are particularly stressful periods for individuals and families, especially during periods of close proximity to combat or when transitioning from active military service.

As per the recent reports released by the U.S. Census Bureau, there are around 18 million veterans and 2.1 million active-duty and reserve service members (https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2020/veterans-report.html) in the United States. Since September 11, 2001, the deployment of 2.8 million active-duty American military personnel to Iraq, Afghanistan, and other areas has resulted in a growing number of combat veterans within the population. Over 6% of the US population has served or is currently serving in the military. Notably, this number also does not consider the significant number of relatives affected by military service. Healthcare providers can enhance the quality of care they provide patients and potentially save their lives by comprehending the relationship between military service and a patient's physical and mental well-being.

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