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Major Depression and Treatment Among Veterans

Treatment among veterans is crucial as untreated mental health problems can result in long-term negative consequences for the affected individuals, their families, their communities, and our Nation as a whole. Recent research indicates that an estimated 25 to 30 percent of the veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have reported symptoms of a mental disorder or cognitive condition. 

Treatment among veterans is important because an annual average of 9.3 percent of veterans in this age group (an estimated 312,000 persons) experienced at least one major depression episode in the past year. The rate of past year major depressive episode was higher among veterans aged 21 to 25 and those aged 26 to 29 (12.1 and 13.4 percent, respectively) than among veterans aged 30 to 34 and those aged 35 to 39 (7.5 and 8.3 percent, respectively).

Treatment among veterans who are Females is a significant issue because women were twice as likely as their male counterparts to have experienced past year major depression episode (16.6 vs. 8.0 percent).  Rates for past year major depression episode were similar among black, white, and Hispanic veterans aged 21 to 39 (9.6, 9.2, and 8.5 percent, respectively).

Almost all (99.2 percent) veterans aged 21 to 39 with past year major depression episode also reported having experienced some level of resulting impairment in one or more functional domains of home management, work, close relationships with others, and social life. Functional impairments are an important indicator of the severity of depression and further point to the need for treatment among veterans.  Over half (51.7 percent) reported severe impairment in at least one of these role domains, and nearly one quarter (23.5 percent) reported very severe impairment in at least one of the domains.

Severe or very severe impairment in role functioning was reported by 55.4 percent of these veterans for home management, 41.3 percent for ability to work, 50.4 percent for close relationships with others, and 57.7 percent for social life.  Functional role impairments in the presence of major depression are indications that the depression is reaching debilitating proportions and may be creating a disability, which indicates an urgent need for treatment among veterans.

For example, those veterans with past year major depressive episode who reported any impairment in any domain of role functioning were unable to carry out normal activities on an average of 57.4 days in the past year; those who reported a very severe impairment were unable to carry out normal activities on an average of 120.0 days in the past year.  While treatment among veterans with severe depression is urgent, untreated depression can become disabling.

Treatment among veterans occurred with more than half (59.6 percent) of veterans aged 21 to 39 who experienced past year major depression episode received treatment for depression in the past year. Of those who sought treatment among veterans 74.0 percent saw or talked to a medical doctor or other health professional about depression and used prescription medication for depression, 20.9 percent saw or talked to a medical doctor or other health professional about depression but did not use a prescription medication for depression, and 5.1 percent used prescription medication for depression but did not see or talk with a medical doctor or other professional about depression in the past year.

Unfortunately, this means that treatment among veterans did not occur for about 40% of those needed treatment for major depression.  There are many barriers to treatments among veterans.  For example, many do not understand that depression is not a matter of will power or character weakness, but is an environmentally induced condition.  Many are afraid to go to the VA for help, but don’t know where else to turn.

With the recent combat deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, treatment among veterans will be a continuing challenge for the mental health care system for years to come. Reaching out, identifying and understanding the mental health service needs of service men and women, including the need for appropriate medical and therapeutic services, are a critical part of facilitating veterans’ successful re-entry into civilian life and to reducing the long-term negative consequences of depression and other mental and emotional problems for veterans, their families, and their communities.  Our treatment center relies on evidence based practices, our Intensive Outpatient Program shares many common methods with other successful treatment methods.  The foundation of our treatment program for relies on the principles of the stages of change, cognitive behavioral therapy, solution focused treatment, skills training and identifying repetitive dysfunctional behavioral relationship patterns to promote recovery from depression and other mental health disorders.  In fact, our Intensive Outpatient Program in Memphis, TN that has been proven to be effective in the treatment of major depression in six peer reviewed treatment outcome studies.   Our treatment center provides services to those who need more treatment than one hour a week, but less than 24 hour care, by providing three hours of treatment per day, three to five days per week, in an intensive outpatient setting.  If you or a loved one is showing signs of depression or anxiety, they should be assessed by a trained mental health professional who can help design a treatment plan that can result in recovery.  Treatment for depression and anxiety can be highly successful.  Call us at 901-682-6136 to schedule an appointment.