Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice

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Volume 73 Issue 1 (March 2000), Pages 1-142

Preventing psychological trauma in soldiers: The role of operational stress training and psychological debriefing (pages 77-85)

Armed conflict is associated with significant long‐term psychiatric morbidity. Interventions to reduce the incidence of psychiatric disorder following psychological trauma may be classified into three categories. Primary prevention includes the selection, preparation and training of individuals likely to be exposed to potentially traumatizing events. Secondary prevention comprises a variety of brief psychological techniques immediately or shortly after traumatizing life events, the best known of which is Psychological Debriefing. Tertiary interventions comprise the treatment of established PTSD and others. Psychiatric morbidity was studied in 106 British soldiers returning from UN peacekeeping duties in the former Republic of Yugoslavia. All 106 soldiers received an Operational Stress Training Package prior to their deployment and a randomly selected group also received a post‐operational PD. Very low rates of PTSD and other psychopathology were found overall and the Operational Stress Training Package may have contributed to this. Elevated CAGE scores suggestive of significant alcohol misuse were observed in both groups and chemical avoidance behaviours arising from this may have masked psychopathology. CAGE scores diminished significantly in the debriefed group by the end of the follow‐up period suggesting that PD may have been of benefit despite the apparent absence of PTSD. This study also demonstrates that a high incidence of psychiatric morbidity is not an inevitable consequence of military conflict.

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