It seems that many soldiers develop stress disorders and depression after their time in the military. But could they have had these mental health problems before even joining?
Researchers distributed confidential surveys and interviews to 5,428 Army soldiers around the country. Check out these statistics they found on the soldier's mental health:
- More than 8% of soldiers thought about committing suicide
- More than 8% of soldiers had intermittent explosive disorder before enlisting (six times the prevalence rate of civilians)
- More than 30% of military suicide attempts would have been prevented if recruits with pre-existing conditions were not allowed to enlist
- Nearly 1 in 5 soldiers had a common mental illness -- depression, a panic disorder or ADHD -- before they enlisted in the Army
- Nearly 9% of soldiers were suffering from PTSD
What's going wrong here? The researchers point to the Army's recruiting process. According to Dr. Elspeth Ritchie, a former chief psychiatrist for the army,
People who want to come into the Army are no fools. They know if you say you had a past suicide attempt, you're probably not going to get in.
Applicants are expected to disclose their mental health history, but many do not in fear of getting rejecting. However, excluding those soldiers with mental health problems would mean the Army couldn't make its recruiting quotas. And according to Dr. Erin Schoomaker, former surgeon general of the Army,
more stringent screening would just lead to driving the problems further underground.
What can the Army do to meet their recruiting targets while protecting the mental health of its soldiers?