Senator Mike Johanns is co-sponsoring legislation to help combat the rise in mental health challenges, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), in U.S. troops and veterans. The Post-Deployment Health Assessment Act would require the Department of Defense to increase mental health screenings for military personnel deployed to combat.
"The military is seeing a sharp increase in the number of servicemen and women struggling to cope with their experiences," Johanns said. "Our troops face the rigors of battle and war every day, and we must do a better job of caring for their mental health. Identifying the warning signs when a service member is facing these challenges is an important first step."
The Post Deployment Health Assessment Act would require that soldiers receive an assessment before they deploy. It also requires soldiers to receive mental health assessments upon returning from combat and every six months thereafter for two years.
Nearly 20 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suffer from PTSD or depression-about 300,000 returning American service members.
The military reported 126 confirmed suicides in 2008, a rate of 20.2 suicides per 100,000 troops. That is the highest level of suicides since they were first reported in 1980.