90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:

Mental Health Issues Common At Enlistment

US Army troops run out of a Stryker armored vehicle as part of a military exercise. (AP/Dinesh Gupta)

US Army troops run out of a Stryker armored vehicle as part of a military exercise. (AP/Dinesh Gupta)

Researchers from Harvard Medical School surveyed more than 5,000 soldiers at Army installations across the country and found that almost 85 percent of those soldiers reported having a mental health problem before they even entered the military.

Between 2004 to 2009, suicide rates doubled among soldiers who served in Iraq or Afghanistan, while they tripled among soldiers who never even deployed, which raises a whole host of questions about mental health screening, support, and the military.

The work was published as three papers in JAMA psychiatry. It was funded by the Army and the National Institute of Mental Health.


Ronald Kessler, McNeil Family Professor of Health Care Policy at Harvard Medical School and principal investigator for Army STARRS, which studied the risk and protective factors for suicide among Army personnel.


Commonhealth “(M)any men and women reported developing new conditions while in the service. The soldiers’ anxiety, depression and PTSD were layered onto their existing problems.”

Other stories from this show:

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • Sinclair2

    Drafting soldiers draws from a wider population which leads to a homogenous cultural mix. Contrary to that, volunteers often come from dysfunctional family environments and they are usually directionless with no sense of the value of an education or career planning. The military is momentarily their panacea. I believe the shock of military life, with or without combat experience, is a cause for the emergence of Bipolar Disorder and PTSD in many.

    The military’s mission is to train this tender, undereducated and limited population into warriors. We’re now seeing the dramatic results.

  • KateHere

    Please find time to finish the interview with Dr Kessler. His study deserves more attention and appreciation. How about asking questions without qualifying them with “Quickly”? The WBUR audience listens to shows like Radio Boston precisely because of guests like Dr Kessler and the impact of his research.
    Dr Kessler was very rudely cut off as he responded to a quote from the step-father of a soldier who had committed suicide. This father pointed out that families have no assistance in identifying soldiers who are at risk.
    Then you followed with a lengthy interview with “The most important man in the world.”
    Ironic, at best.

Hosts Meghna Chakrabarti and Anthony Brooks introduce us to newsmakers, big thinkers and artists and bring us stories of relevance to Bostonians here and around the region. Live every weekday at 3.

  • Listen: Weekdays, 3 p.m. on 90.9 FM
  • Live Call-In: (800) 423-TALK
  • Listener Voicemail: (617) 358-0607
Most Popular
This site is best viewed with: Firefox | Internet Explorer 9 | Chrome | Safari