Mental Health Checks Will Be Required for Returning Soldiers

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Troops that are coming back from combat will be required to be interviewed by counselors to help them with PTSD and suicidal ideations. As of yet there are no laws that can force a soldier to expose how they are feeling, officials said the program has the potential to save lives.

The cost will be estimated at $45 million between 2010 and 2014, the idea was in a bill introduced earlier this year by U.S. Rep. Harry Teague, D-N.M., and signed into law about two weeks ago by President Barack Obama. Teague said the Defense Department has acknowledged its debt to combat veterans and agreed to finance the program. This could help PTSD and soldiers who feel suicidal.

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"I think it's definitely providing care for the unseen wounds that some of our veterans bring back from their deployment," Teague said. “And we hope that relieves the stigma. by getting everybody in and be able to help the ones who need it." He further states, "I think (the law) is a huge step in the right direction to make sure our active-duty soldiers are taken care of," Krahling said. "You can always go back and recognize the signals that were there after something like this happens."

Active-duty troops afraid of derailing careers or being branded as weak sometimes avoid asking for help. By posing the same questions to everyone, some of that stigma will be avoided, Teague said.
The law states that troops must have an interview within 60 days before deploying. Troops must be interviewed between 90 and 180 days after returning from combat zones. Three more interviews are to be conducted 6 months, 1 year and 2 years after deployment.

Whether troops can be seen by physicians, psychiatrists or social workers has yet to be determined. The law simply says that someone "trained and certified to perform such assessments" must do the interviews.
"Reality is (that) recruiting and retaining high quality health-care providers of all specialties is a challenge in the El Paso and southern New Mexico area," Baunchalk said. "If the pool is limited to just behavioral health professionals, that's a bigger challenge than if it's behavioral health professionals plus primary care providers like our family medicine doctors." The important thing that the military can do at this point is to be sure mental health checks become a requirement for returning soldiers.

Written by Tyler Woods Ph.D.
Tucson, Arizona
Exclusive to eMaxHealth

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