Missed opportunity to screen and diagnose PTSD and depression among deploying shipboard US military personnel

Judith Harbertson*, Braden R. Hale, Nelson L. Michael, Paul T. Scott

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background Depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are significant risks for suicide and other adverse events among US military personnel, but prevalence data among ship-assigned personnel at the onset of deployment are unknown. Aims To determine the prevalence of shipboard personnel who screen positive for PTSD and/or major depressive disorder (MDD) at the onset of deployment, and also those who reported these diagnoses made by a physician or healthcare professional in the year prior to deployment. Method Active-duty ship-assigned personnel (N = 2078) completed anonymous assessments at the beginning of deployment. Depression was measured using the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D; score of ≥22), and PTSD was assessed using the PTSD Checklist-Civilian Version (PCL-C; both score and symptom criteria were used). Results In total, 7.3% (n = 151 of 2076) screened positive for PTSD and 22% (n = 461 of 2078) for MDD at deployment onset. Only 6% and 15% of those who screened positive for PTSD or MDD, respectively, had been diagnosed by a healthcare professional in the past year. Conclusions Missed opportunities for mental healthcare among screen-positive shipboard personnel reduce the benefits associated with early identification and linkage to care. Improved methods of mental health screening that promote early recognition and referral to care may mitigate psychiatric events in theatre. Declaration of interest This work was performed as part of the official duties of the authors as military service members or employees of the US Government.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)314-317
Number of pages4
JournalBJPsych Open
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


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