Out of every three US soldiers who returns from active duty in Iraq, one needs mental health treatment, this is according to a report published in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association).

The number of cases of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) among soldiers returning from Iraq is much higher than those who came back from other conflicts, such as Afghanistan. Twice as many Iraq veterans sought mental health treatment than the Afghanistan veterans (in percentage terms).

Psychiatrists say PTSD is much more likely if the soldier is exposed to a lot of combat. According to Col. Charles Milliken, Military Psychiatrist, co-author of this study, there is a clear correlation between the amount of combat exposure and seeking mental health services when you get back.

In this study, 300,000 soldiers and marines were tracked. They had been in active duty in Iraq, Afghanistan and some other countries during the period 2004-204. A much higher percentage of Iraq veterans needed mental health treatment than those who served in any other country. 2,411 of the soldiers in Iraq had had thoughts of suicide. Over half of them were very scared of being killed.

Psychiatrists say it is important to treat patients early on to avoid long term consequences – which can be devastating for the patient and his/her family.

Written by: Christian Nordqvist
Editor: Medical News Today