The J-MHAT 7 report is the latest in a series of studies, since 2003, to assess the mental health and well-being of deployed Service Members. The Mental Health Advisory Teams (MHATs) were established by The Office of the Army Surgeon General and have deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom six times since 2003 and to Operation Enduring Freedom four times, all at the request of theater commanders. From July to September, the J-MHAT 7 team examined the Afghanistan theater behavioral healthcare delivery system and surveyed and interviewed Soldiers and Marines. The study reflects a practice of reviewing, in a disciplined and systematic fashion, our behavioral healthcare-delivery system in theater.
The purpose of J-MHAT 7 was to:
- Assess behavioral health in land combat forces by surveying service members in Army and Marine maneuver units.
- Examine the delivery of behavioral healthcare in Operation Enduring Freedom .
- Provide recommendations for sustainment and improvement to commands.
In total, 911 surveys were collected from 40 Army maneuver unit platoons and 335 from 13 Marine platoons.
- Soldiers in 2010 reported lower barriers and better access to behavioral healthcare despite more time spent outside the wire.
- A decline in reports of individual morale relative to 2009 and 2005.
- Acute stress rates higher than rates from 2009 and 2005.
- Soldiers reported high exposure to concussive events.
- More multiple deployers than in 2009.
- Significantly higher levels of unit cohesion and perceived unit readiness reported than in any other OEF MHAT.
MHAT recommendations include:
- Continue a staffing ratio of between 1:700 and 1:800 to support delivery of care for highly dispersed Army units. Continue to monitor and adjust staffing ratio as related to need.
- Continue to support random trials and well designed studies both within and outside of deployed environments to provide evidence-based resilience solutions with a focus on (a) leadership training and (b) pre-deployment training modules.
While acknowledging that challenges still exist, the Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Eric B. Schoomaker said the team’s goal is to prevent the adverse behavioral health consequences of deployment and combat exposure while making sure every deployed and returning Service Member gets the healthcare they need and deserve.