Large number of soldiers had mental illness before enlisting

The first publicly released findings from the largest mental-health study conducted by the military gave a sobering picture of the prevalence of mental disorders and suicide indicators among active-duty troops.

Among the findings released Monday: One-quarter of active-duty soldiers who have never deployed to combat have some sort of psychiatric disorder, and one-third of troops who have attempted suicide had a mental disorder before joining the Army.

"It's not surprising, but it's striking," said sociologist Ronald Kessler, Harvard Medical School's principal investigator for the Army Study to Assess Risk and Resilience in Servicemembers, or Army STARRS.

"Suicide does not come out of the clear blue sky," he said. The results help to show that any large group, such as the Army, will have "a lot of people who are clinically recognized as having metal-health problems," Mr. Kessler added.

The findings, which will appear in the Journal of the American Medical Association on Wednesday, are the first publicly reported results of a continuing project spanning a decade that includes observations on some 1.6 million soldiers.

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