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Should All Military Personnel Undergo Mental Health Screening?

Should all military personnel undergo mental health screening? This question has received much attention in recent years due to the high number of suicides committed by service members. Suicide rates in the military have stayed relatively stable over time, but they can spike during deployments. In the last three years, the military’s suicide rate has averaged 19 per 100,000 person-years. In combat, the rate can climb to 30 per 100,000. In EMFK, however, there was no completed suicides. Line commanders supported a more aggressive medical evacuation stance.

A recent study examined the effectiveness of a postdeployment screening program. Although the screening process is largely based on self-report surveys, it still represents an important avenue to care. The researchers believe further research needs to be conducted on strategies to increase engagement in treatment among service members. The study concluded that mental health screening is important for all service members, including the reserves. Nonetheless, future efforts should focus on improving engagement and access to care for these service members.

The goal of the military draft was to reduce the number of neuropsychiatric casualties. Many military psychiatrists thought that psychiatric and adjustment difficulties were rarely treatable, and they were exempt from service. Many draft boards took a more moderate stance and doubted the screening’s effectiveness in identifying soldiers who would collapse under combat conditions. Various screening proposals were developed based on these differing philosophies.

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