Soldiers improve as more screened for PTSD

June 9, 2012 at 12:53 AM
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FORT KNOX, Ky., June 9 (UPI) -- Routine screening of veterans for post-traumatic stress disorder or depression can ease "any perceived stigma" attached to the illnesses, medical officials say.

Col. Charles Engel, M.D. -- the RESPECT-Mil program director at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and senior scientist at the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress -- said the RESPECT-Mil program adds behavioral health screening to primary care visits.

Engel said about 63,000 soldiers have been diagnosed with a previously unrecognized behavioral health need and received treatment since 2007.

"Making behavioral health screening as standard as a blood pressure check helps defuse any perceived stigma around seeking help for symptoms of PTSD or depression," Engel said in a statement. "Early intervention ensures soldiers get effective help sooner while reducing the use of clinical services for related symptoms like back pain or accidents and emergency room visits from hazardous drinking."

RESPECT-Mil data showed as the number of contacts a care coordinator has with a patient rises, PTSD and depression severity scores trend downward in a clinically significant way -- regardless of treatment method, Engel said.

"So far, results have been positive," he said. "Program data between August 2009 and December 2010 show PTSD remissions overall have doubled over time, meaning that twice as many patients starting at less than 10 percent and rising to more than 20 percent experienced a clinically significant reduction in self-assessed PTSD symptom severity scores."

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