The U.S. Army hopes it can do a better job of preventing mental health problems in the ranks with more aggressive screening of troops — before they ship out to a war zone.

After nine years of fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, the military is coping with a wave of mental health issues, from post-traumatic stress disorder to depression and suicide.

Army medical experts have been studying the results of a just-released study of the benefits of pre-deployment evaluation of soldiers and follow-up treatment while they were in Iraq. The study found that improved screening reduced later behavioral problems by 78% and reduced thoughts of suicide by more than half.

The service is struggling with a troubling suicide rate. At a news conference at the Pentagon later Wednesday, officials will report that while the number of suicides in the active-duty force declined in 2010, the number of suicides in the Army Reserve and National Guard increased, a senior Army official said.

The Army Surgeon General’s office said Tuesday it hopes to have new screening and treatment procedures in place in six months. The changes will be based in part on the research published by the American Journal of Psychiatry Tuesday.

“The most important part about the study, even more than the screening, is that they identified which soldiers could benefit from follow-up treatment in-theater,” Col. Rebecca Porter told CNN. Porter is the director of behavioral health for the Surgeon General of the Army. “That’s important for the mission and it is important for individual soldiers, to see the fight through.”

Source: Charley Keyes for CNN.

Up Next

Jailed CIA agent spy-for-Russia gets eight more years behind bars.

The U.S. Army hopes it can do a better job of preventing mental health…