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Keywords:

  • community nursing;
  • Depression Anxiety Stress Scales;
  • Geriatric Depression Scale;
  • literature review;
  • mental health screening;
  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder Checklist

Aims and objectives.  To explore through literature review the appropriateness of three common tools for use by community nurses to screen war veteran and war widow(er) clients for depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Background.  War veterans and, to a lesser extent, war widow(er)s, are prone to mental health challenges, especially depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. Community nurses do not accurately identify such people with depression and related disorders although they are well positioned to do so. The use of valid and reliable self-report tools is one method of improving nurses’ identification of people with actual or potential mental health difficulties for referral to a general practitioner or mental health practitioner for diagnostic assessment and treatment. The Geriatric Depression Scale, Depression Anxiety Stress Scales and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder Checklist are frequently recommended for mental health screening but the appropriateness of using the tools for screening war veteran and war widow(er) community nursing clients who are often aged and have functional impairment, is unknown.

Design.  Systematic review.

Conclusions.  Current literature informs that the Geriatric Depression Scale accurately predicts a diagnosis of depression in community nursing cohorts. The three Depression Anxiety Stress Scales subscales of depression, anxiety and stress are valid; however, no studies were identified that compared the performance of the Depression Anxiety Stress Scales in predicting diagnoses of depression or anxiety. The Post-traumatic Stress Disorder Checklist predicts post-traumatic stress disorder in community cohorts although no studies meeting the selection criteria included male participants.

Relevance to clinical practice.  This review provides recommendations for the use of the Geriatric Depression Scale, Depression Anxiety Stress Scales and The Post-traumatic Stress Disorder Checklist based on examination of the published evidence for the application of these screening tools in samples approximated to community nursing cohorts. Findings and recommendations would guide community nurses, managers and health planners in the selection of mental health screening tools to promote holistic community nursing care.