Military personnel are at significant risk of developing psychopathology: the number of Falklands veterans who committed suicide was greater than those who were killed in the war itself.
The military have taken a number of steps to ensure the welfare of personnel. However, many individuals are reluctant to seek help due to the perceived stigma associated with reporting psychological symptoms. Indeed Hoge (2004) found that one of the most commons reasons why US soldiers and Marines failed to seek help for psychological symptoms was due to concerns about being perceived as weak, Other studies have identified hostility among service personnel to help-providers who are viewed as ‘outsiders’ i.e. those not sharing their experiences of combat.
In the present paper, the researchers sought to investigate whether a PTSD psychoeducational programme, TRiM, developed by the Royal Navy, reduced stigma about stress and PTSD and improved seeking help from normal military support networks (i.e. ‘outsiders’ such as medical staff, welfare, mental health professionals, religious groups), and from personnel who were trained in TRiM. The study involved military personnel who were considered to have good personnel management skills being TRiMtrained, that is, educated about stress and PTSD and being encouraged to share their own experiences of stress so that stigm would be diminished. They were also trained to be able to identify ‘at risk’ individuals in their own units to facilitate early referral to appropriate services.
Encouragingly the results found that compared to a control group, those who were TRiM trained expressed significantly less stigma relating to stress and PTSD and a positive attitude towards help-seeking from TRiM trained personnel. Interestingly, TRiM training had no effect on their willingness to seek help from normal military support networks. Thus it would seem that wariness to ‘outsiders’ remains. Research on non-military populations has föund that reluctance to seek help is due to a lack of knowledge about what help is available. Thus a next step for the military may be to educate personnel on the efficacy of treatments such as cognitive behaviour therapy and Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) so that help-seeking from individ:uals equipped to provide effective treatments can be enhanced.
Gould, M., Greenberg, N. & Hetherton, J. (2007). Stigma and the Military: Evaluation of a PTSD Psychoeducational Program. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 20(4), 1-11.
Hoge, C.W., Castro, C., Messer, S.C., Mc Gurk, D., Cotting, D.L. & Koffman, R.L. (2004). Combat duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, mental health problems and barriers to care. The New England Journal ofMedicine, 351, 13-22.