Mental Health Impairments Difficult to Reduce in UK Military Personnel

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Screening based on tailored advice does not reduce prevalence of disorders or increase help-seeking.
Screening based on tailored advice does not reduce prevalence of disorders or increase help-seeking.

HealthDay News — Post-deployment screening for mental disorders is not effective for reducing the prevalence of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, or alcohol misuse among UK military personnel, according to a study published in The Lancet.

Roberto J. Rona, from the King's Center for Military Health Research in London, England, and colleagues randomized 434 platoons with 10,190 personnel to a screening group, which received tailored help-seeking advice, or to a control group, which received general mental health advice. Participants were assessed 6 to 12 weeks after deployment and underwent follow-up assessment 10 to 24 months later.

Eighty-eight percent of 6350 personnel received screening and 63 percent completed follow-up, while 82 percent of 3840 received the control questionnaire and 62 percent completed follow-up. The researchers found that, overall, 35 percent of personnel in the screening groups declined the tailored advice; those with PTSD or anxiety or depression were more likely to view the tailored advice than non-cases (83 and 84 percent, respectively, versus 64 percent; both P < 0.0001). There were no significant between-group differences in prevalence for PTSD, depression or anxiety, alcohol misuse, or seeking support for mental disorders.

"Post-deployment screening for mental disorders based on tailored advice was not effective at reducing prevalence of mental health disorders nor did it increase help-seeking," the authors write.

Reference

Rona RJ, Burdett H, Khondoker M, et al. Post-deployment screening for mental disorders and tailored advice about help-seeking in the UK military: a cluster randomised controlled trial. Lancet. 2017;  doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(16)32398-4. [Epub ahead of print]

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