Harvard Mental Health Letter

Getting help for post-combat mental health problems

Delayed symptoms, stigma, and concerns about insurance pose barriers.

Since 2001, hundreds of thousands of American enlisted men and women have been sent overseas to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq. Studies using different methods have found that anywhere from 17% to 25% of these veterans report at least one mental health problem upon return to the United States.

To improve health care for veterans, the U.S. Department of Defense mandated in 2003 that all soldiers complete a three-page Post-Deployment Health Assessment (PDHA) immediately upon returning from overseas. The PDHA includes questions designed to assess mental health. The intent is to identify problems as early as possible so that appropriate interventions can be provided, preventing long-term mental health problems from developing.

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