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Pentagon Study Links Time Between Deployments To Mental Health Disorders

DoD Study raises questions about "dwell time" may be linked to mental health.

By Lea Sutton
|  Tuesday, Nov 29, 2011  |  Updated 8:50 AM PDT
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Service members who have more "dwell time" may have a greater chance of being diagnosed with a mental health disorder than those with less, according to a new Pentagon study.

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"Dwell time" is the term used by the military for the time at home between deployments. 

According to a new Pentagon study, service members who have more dwell time may have a greater chance of being diagnosed with a mental health disorder.

As the war in Iraq winds down with troops expected to be out by the end of the year, deployments continue to other places including Afghanistan. 

Going to war and coming home has been a steady cycle for many San Diegans who've served over the past ten years. 

Both are an adjustment.

"For me personally, shorter dwell time is good, just so I can get back out there," said Corporal Nick Parker, USMC. 

"When you're over there, it's pretty much life and death every day, and you always have to be looking out for yourself - so dwell time is definitely important," said Corporal Jared Tittle, USMC.
Both Marines say they're ready to go back to war after just a couple months at home.  Both also said it depends on the person. 

One explanation the study's authors suggest for their findings is longer dwell times may make it harder to get back into the “warrior mindset." 

"A state of health is where you can go back and forth as needed - it's not something that may come naturally to some people", said Robert McLay, M.D., Research Director for Mental Health at Naval Medical Center San Diego. 

He says the study highlights the need for more research. 

One explanation he suggested for the findings was that time at home gives service members time to get diagnosed. 

Another explanation may be that pre-deployment health screening keeps service members with mental health issues home longer. 

McLay has some recommendations for how to make the most of dwell time.

“If you devote it to paying attention to your family, to being involved with your spirituality, taking care of your health including mental health, I think you will return to service as a stronger better person, more prepared for those challenges," he said,

McLay says it is important for those who are having a tough time re-adjusting to home life after deployment to get help. 

His open PTSD group is offered to any service members or veterans who are eligible for care at Naval Medical Center San Diego (NMCSD).  

Lea Sutton covers stories involving San Diego's military community. Send her your thoughts via Twitter @nbcsandiego or add your comment to our Facebook page.
Find more of her stories in our special military section.

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