Veterans and people serving in the military face a number of unique health issues. In times of war, priority is given to life-threatening injuries such as gunshot wounds and head injuries. However, some service members develop different health problems after the war as a result of war exposure and experience (Guevara, 2002). These members are at a high risk of mental health problems, including anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorders. Souchek (2003) notes that this may lead to harmful stress related activities such as substance abuse which is a personal and public burden. The topic of mental health disorders among veterans is therefore important in health promotion. This paper will critically analyze a research article on mental health among veterans. The article’s strengths and weaknesses will be highlighted and its findings related to health promotion.
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Analysis of the Article
According to the Department of Defense Task Force on Mental Health (2007), 40 percent of soldiers among the U.S. troops that returned from Iraq and Afghanistan, half of the National Guard members, and a third of Marines, report symptoms of psychological health problems. The article “Mental Health Disorders Among 103 788 US Veterans Returning From Iraq and Afghanistan Seen at Department of Veterans Affairs Facilities” by Seal, et al. contains findings from a study carried out at Iraq and Afghanistan in 2007. The study subjects in the research included United States veterans separated from Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom military service that were first seen at the department of Veterans Affairs health care facilities between 30th September 2001 and September 30, 2005. This was a four year period starting from the time when the US invaded Afghanistan.
From the study findings, 25% of 103788 veterans from Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom received mental health diagnose and 56% of those diagnosed had at least two different mental health diagnoses (Seal, et al., 2007). 31% of the study population received mental health and psychosocial diagnoses or either of the two diagnoses. Seal et al. (2007) documented that veterans who were over 40years were less likely to be diagnosed with mental health of PTSD compared to the younger category of 18024. Most of the diagnoses for mental health were detected approximately two weeks after the first visit.
The researchers concluded that there was an early detection of mental health diagnoses and psychosocial problems in a considerable proportion of veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. This information was discovered from the department of veteran affairs facilities especially in primary medical care settings. Seal et al. (2007) therefore proposed the use of focused early detection and intervention programs which should be provided by primary care givers. This will help to mitigate or even prevent mental illnesses.
I think this study was extensive, and well conducted, considering the large sample size and the source of data which was the national patient care database. The results were well represented in charts and graphs and well interpreted in the text. The results also put into consideration factors like age, sex, marital status and type of service. The findings of there results can, however, not be generalized, considering the fact that the data represented was only for those veterans that accessed medical care. These results may consequently overestimate the burden presented by the situation. There was also room to interview the subjects for further systematic assessment.
How Information from this Study can be Used
The results from this study can be used in health promotion campaign by presenting them to the relevant authorities to signal the need for improvements in the primary prevention strategies in the military. The information can also be used to create awareness among the veterans to advocate for early detection and seeking of medical help to prevent development of chronic mental illnesses. I would recommend this article to other colleagues because it is comprehensible and relatively reliable.
Veterans and other people in the military are exposed to sights and experiences that might psychologically affect their mental health leading to long term destructive effects to them and their families. Governments and stakeholders need to focus on the issue of mental health problems among veterans, imputing both in preventive and treatment measures. Ways of combating stigma related with the problems should also be identified.
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Department of Defense Task Force on Mental Health, (2007). An achievable vision: Report of the Department of Defense Task Force on Mental Health. Falls Church, VA: Defense Health Board.
Guevara, R. et al (2002). Mental disorders among U.S. military personnel in the 1990s: association with high levels of health care utilization and early military attrition. Am JPsychiatry 159:1576-1583.
Seal, K H. Bertenthal, D. Miner, C R. Sen,s. Marmar, C.(2007), Bringing the War Back Home: Mental Health Disorders Among 103 788 US Veterans Returning From Iraq and Afghanistan Seen at Department of Veterans Affairs Facilities. Arch intern med VoL 167.
Souchek J, et al. (2003), Hospital use and survival among Veterans Affairs beneficiaries. N Engl J Med. 2003;349:1637-1646.