August 13, 2012
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have had a devastating effect on returning soldiers. Record numbers of suicides are occurring among both American and Canadian soldiers returning from war. The study suggests that screening for depression can help soldiers get the care they need before it is too late. Captain Luis Montalván thoroughly agrees.
According to the “Vancouver Sun,” a study published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry has found a strong link between major depression and suicidal behaviors in soldiers returning from war. The study notes that depression in soldiers is a stronger indicator of suicide risk than post traumatic stress disorder, though the two conditions usually go hand in hand.
193 former soldiers and 55 active duty soldiers participated in the study. Each of the soldiers was receiving treatment at the Parkwood Hospital Operational Stress Injury Clinic. A majority of the study’s participants are thought to have PTSD and 75 percent showed signs of major depression. Most of the soldiers had spent at least 15 years of their lives in the military and had been called to a war zone at least three times.
US Army veteran Luis Montalván knows the impact PTSD and depression can have on a soldier’s life after returning home. Luis Montalván served for 17 years in the US military and served two tours of duty. Like the soldiers in the study, he found the return to civilian life to be challenging. He has shared his experiences of learning to cope with the help of a service dog that became a bestseller.
Montalván agrees with the study’s findings that PTSD is associated with suicidal tendencies and thoughts. He also agrees with the further finding that depression in former and current soldiers is an even stronger indicator of suicidal thoughts. The study’s finding should change the way soldiers are analyzed in both the US and Canada. It is not enough for doctors to look for symptoms of PTSD when evaluating a patient. They should also assess veterans and active duty personnel for signs of depression. Symptoms of major depression include trouble sleeping, decreased appetite, and feelings of low self-esteem on most days during a two week period.
Luis Montalván served in the US Army for 17 years until he received an honorable discharge in 2007. He completed two tours of duty in Iraq, the first in 2003 and the second in 2005. Montalván struggled with PTSD and was greatly aided by his service dog, Tuesday.