The need for psychologists in the army is the need of the hour for our soldiers. Soldiers, the frontline heroes working at the border, protecting us from all types of threats, sacrifice a lot. Their families, their safety, their lives, their living conditions, everything is at risk, but they still do their job with all their heart and might.
Apart from the common issues faced by army personnels, a very deep rooted and difficult to eliminate one is that of trauma caused by intensely terrifying experiences of soldiers in action.
According to Science Daily (2008), the most common mental health disorders acquired over the period of a personnels service are post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, and substance use disorder. Some people already have a mental health condition before joining the army, however most disorders are acquired while in the army.
A 2019 Indian paper by Sitara Srinivas aimed at examining the mental health in the Indian Armed Forces (IAF) and the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF). The results revealed that there is a high risk of developing stress and other mental health issues in the IAF and CAPF, which is evident by the suicides and fratricide happening amongst army and police personnels. It was also observed that mental health and talking about mental health was majorly stigmatized in the IAF and CAPF, which further deteriorates the situation.
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a stress disorder which occurs in response to a traumatising event. PTSD is characterized by a prolonged period of shock and intense fear and stress whenever reminded of the traumatic event.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual 5th version (DSM 5) diagnosis criteria of PTSD is:
- Exposure to the traumatic event
- One (or more) intrusion symptom(s)
- One (or more) symptom(s) of avoidance
- Two (or more) symptoms of negative changes in feelings and mood
- Two (or more) symptoms of changes in arousal or reactivity
These symptoms also must:
- Last for longer than one month
- Bring about considerable distress and/or interfere greatly with a number of different areas of life
- Not be due to a medical condition or substance use
PTSD is common among military veterans, mainly due to the extreme experiences they go through while in service. War, killings, seeing other soldiers die on their side, gruesome violence, all this has a negative impact on the mental health of soldiers, and the problem gets exaggerated when this trauma is not dealt with professionally and carefully. This carelessness affects military personnels professional lives and personal lives, even after their service ends.
A study by Kulka et al (1990) revealed that 15.2% of men and 8.1% of women who had served in Vietnam suffered from PTSD.
When in combat, the body’s stress response system is activated which helps soldiers perform efficiently. After the threat is over, their physiological system relaxes down so as to help their bodies gain equilibrium again. However people suffering from PTSD are unable to relax themselves even after the threat has passed on, and this prolonged activation of their body’s stress response system drains them physically and mentally, causing several issues.
For this very reason, psychologists and psychiatrists become extremely important for the benefit of army personnels’ mental health. Since PTSD occurs after the traumatic event, it is essential that these soldiers are given good quality post-combat treatment, both physical and mental. This will prevent mental disorders from manifesting among military personnels and also increase their efficiency and longevity of service, ultimately benefiting the nation.
Srinivas, S. (2019). Mental health in the Indian Armed Forces and the Central Armed Police Forces. SPRF. Retrieved from https://sprf.in/mental-health-in-the-indian-armed-forces-and-the-central-armed-police-forces/#:~:text=The%20main%20conditions%20include%20post,disorder%20(Science%20Daily%202018).
Kulka, R. A., Schlenger, W. E., Fairbank, J. A., Hough, R. L., Jordan, B. K., Marmar, C. R., & Weiss, D. S. (1990). Trauma and the Vietnam war generation: Report of findings from the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study. Brunner/Mazel.
Tull, M. (2022, March 15). Why is there such a high percentage of PTSD in the military? Verywell Mind. Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/overview-of-ptsd-and-the-military-2797443