By David Morgan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - About 300,000 U.S. troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder or depression, but about half receive no care, an independent study said on Thursday.
The study by the RAND Corp. also estimated that another 320,000 troops have sustained a possible traumatic brain injury during deployment. But researchers could not say how many of those cases were serious or required treatment.
Billed as the first large-scale nongovernmental survey of its kind, the study found that stress disorder and depression afflict 18.5 percent of the more than 1.5 million U.S. forces who have deployed to the two war zones.
Army Col. Loree Sutton, director of the U.S. Defense Center of Excellence for Psychological Health and Traumatic Brain Injury, welcomed the study.
She was concerned at the finding that only about half of those who sought help received "minimally adequate" treatment and said it would spur the military to try harder to recruit more mental health specialists.
The Army wants to hire 275 civilian mental health professionals but a tight labor market and difficulties getting civilians into war zones has slowed the effort, officials say.
RAND, a private research organization, estimated that stress and depression among returning soldiers cost $6.2 billion in the two years following deployment, mainly due to lost productivity, medical costs and a higher risk of suicide. (Additional reporting by Andrew Gray; Editing by Alan Elsner and Will Dunham)