Health

Troops Spend More Days In Hospitals For Mental Illness Than Combat Wounds

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht
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Active duty service members spent more days in the hospital in 2012 for mental health problems than war wounds, accidental injury, or physical illness, according to the Armed Forces Surveillance Center.

Mental illness like post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse disorder, and others, indicate that years of exposure to combat trauma are taking a serious toll on troops.

Nineteen percent of all outpatient hospital visits and inpatient stays by troops are due to mental health concerns, which is second only to injury and poisoning.

Mental disorder accounted for the longest days spent in the hospital. The only patients who stayed in the hospital longer than mental health patients were soldiers with “severe amputations” and lengthy rehabilitations.

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Army officials believe the uptick in mental health stays is due to the ongoing wars in the Middle East.

"The increase in mental health hospitalizations is most likely influenced by exposure of servicemembers to stressful events associated with deployment to" Afghanistan and Iraq,  Army Lt. Col. Catherine Wilkinson, a spokeswoman for Pentagon health affairs, told USA Today.

Lt. Col. Christopher Ivany, the Army's chief of behavioral health, said those numbers are expected to fall this year by 15 percent. In large part, this is due to the fact that physicians have gotten better at treating these disorders with outpatient care.

Ivany said better screening and access to therapists is also part of plan.

"We are actively trying to find those conditions within our soldiers, all of which drives the increase," Ivany says.

Sources: USA Today, ThinkProgress