PTSD and NATO Operations

The ARW was closed out by a special session examining PTSD and NATO operations. This was opened by a graphic presentation from Dr. Zoltan Vekerdi of the Hungarian

Defense Force. Dr. Vekerdi detailed his eye-witness account of "Black Sunday" in Kabul in 2003, when four Germans and 2 Afghans were killed, while another 35 required medical treatment of injuries—the result of the suicide bombing of a German motorcade which had been headed to the airport to depart the country after completing a tour of duty.

Dr. Amy Adler, a psychologist with the US Army Medical Research Unit— Europe, described the results of psychological screening of soldiers returning from deployment to Afghanistan and Iraq. Their results indicated that the 4-question screen known as the PC-PTSD performed as well in this population as the 17-item PTSD Checklist for Military Populations (PCL-M). The PC-PTSD was more desirable on the basis of its brevity, and it has been incorporated in a U.S. Department of Defense form that is routinely used to screen soldiers after deployment. Dr. Adler also highlighted data that indicate screening should be done at 3-6 months after deployment since many do not develop symptoms until that point, rather than immediately upon return.

Dr. Randy Boddam, Chief of Psychiatry for the Canadian Defence Force, reiterated the importance of screening at the 3-6 month period, noting the "honeymoon" phenomenon that is associated with improved mood and other symptoms upon immediate return home. He also noted the value of taking care of family members, identifying a strong correlation between problems with family members at home and those of deployed soldiers. Dr. Boddam detailed the Canadian approach to the management of operational stress, which makes a significant attempt to be proactive, beginning with the recruitment process, and including an algorithm that addresses diagnosis and treatment.

Dr. Jamie Hacker Hughes of Kings College in London described the workings of the NATO Research and Technology Group (RTG)-20. Their objective is to develop guidelines for military leaders on stress and psychological support to enhance effectiveness in modern military operations. They developed a report to describe fundamental areas of agreement between NATO members that addresses pre-, during, and post-deployment periods. Among the items agreed upon are that all military service members are responsible for monitoring their own mental health, and that the mental health of the unit will enhance—or detract from—the ability of the unit to carry out their mission. They are also conducting a survey of military line unit leaders to determine what they perceive their needs to be with regard to mental health support.

Dr. David Lam ended the meeting on a positive note by describing NATO's Security through Science Program, and the variety of potential funding categories available to researchers through this program. Since this information is available on the NATO website, it has not been included in this volume.

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