A new study performed by the Army’s Sixth Mental Health Advisory Team found soldiers returning from Iraq deployments have needed at least three years at their home base to recapture their level of pre-deployment mental health. The military calls this time spent at home bases between deployments “dwell time.”
Currently, soldiers spent approximately 1 year at home between deployments. While the Army planned on extending the current dwell time to 2 years, it seems unlikely given President Obama’s recent commitment to deploy more troops to Afghanistan.
According to the study, the more time soldiers spent at home between deployments, the less likely they were to report signs of:
The study concluded it took a soldier 3 years being stateside to make a full mental health recovery. Essentially, the greater the amounts of dwell time, the better the mental health of the soldier.
Outside of having proper dwell time, the other major contributing factor to mental health issues was the intensity of the combat the individual soldier experienced while deployed. This is coupled with the increased number of soldiers deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan not only suffering from PTSD, but a growing suicide rate.
This is not to say there is a positive link between being repeatedly deployed and committing suicide, but soldiers with PTSD are more likely to commit suicide. The Army is attempting solve these issues in a number of ways:
- By eliminating stop-loss and offering bonuses for soldiers to stay deployed instead;
- Drawing down in Iraq next year; and
- Developing a soldier fitness program designed to aid soldiers in strengthening their mental health.
Despite these measures, some say the only way to solve the problem is to drastically increase the size of the Army and that is just not a viable solution at this point in time.