Intended for healthcare professionals


Mental health screening before troop deployment

BMJ 2006; 333 doi: (Published 09 November 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:979

Is not supported by current evidence

  1. Kenneth Craig Hyams, chief consultant, occupational and environmental health (
  1. 1Office of Public Health and Environmental Hazards, United States Department of Veterans Affairs, Washington, DC 20420, USA

The United Kingdom and United States have a long history of trying to identify mental health problems among troops to be deployed. Since the first world war, a series of psychological screening programmes have been implemented, but none has been successful in providing a more capable combat force.1 Nevertheless, there is an understandable interest in developing new screening strategies to reduce the psychological morbidity of troops currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.2 In this week's issue, Rona and colleagues report the effects of screening troops for mental health problems before deployment to Iraq.3

Two major approaches to predeployment screening exist. The first is to identify troops who are already experiencing debilitating medical and psychological illnesses just before deployment. The advantages of not sending sick troops into a conflict are obvious. These screening programmes are therefore useful, provided they accurately identify troops who need health care, are cost effective, and do not hinder demanding deployment preparations. The second is …

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