Given the growing burden of health concerns among U.S. veterans, the American Journal of Public Health dedicated a special March 2012 supplement to raise awareness and issue a call to action around the challenge of veterans’ mental health and suicide prevention.

In an effort to eliminate stigma around mental health disorders, the issue is intended to draw more research and attention to this topic so preventive measures can be taken to help veterans in need,  before desperate measures are taken. The supplement, published online Jan. 25, can be found at the journal website under “First Look.”

Some key research findings featured in the issue include the following:

  • veterans returning from war zone deployment in Iraq or Afghanistan are at higher risk for mental health problems and alcohol and drug abuse;
  • an increase in substance use disorders and major depression across military services is associated with combat conditions; and
  • suicide rates for all U.S. military services increased between 2005 and 2007, particularly for the regular Army and National Guard.

Post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression and substance abuse disorder are among the conditions being reported and diagnosed among a growing number of veterans who have been exposed to combat conditions, namely in Iraq and Afghanistan. The studies examine differences among various branches of the services, lengths of deployment, as well as other contributing factors.

An accompanying editorial gives hope and inspiration on this troubling topic, stating 10 reasons why suicide prevention is possible. One of them, the editorial states, is that “prevention and support efforts are growing stronger. It can be a winnable battle. The time to act is now.”

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