Unit Cohesion, Combat Exposure, and PTSD

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Noting that combat exposure is a consistent predictor of posttrauatic stress (PTS), researchers reported in the Journal of Counseling and Development (Volume 89 Winter 2011 pp. 81-88) that unit cohesion may be an important factor to take into account regarding PTS, and that good unit cohesion may attenuate PTS as well as subsequent depression.

“The current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have resulted in a number of investigations examining the postdeployment mental health among military serving in these regions. Although the published rates of self-reported mental health problems among service members returning from combat deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom have ranged from approximately 19% to 44%, few doubt that a notable prevalence of mental health issues exists in this population.

“Despite limitations, the study was able to survey a unique sample of U.S. servicemen immediately departing the combat theater. The current data demonstrate that efforts to augment levels of unit cohesion and monitor levels of combat exposure may be beneficial in reducing adverse mental health outcomes in deployed service members.”

An interesting suggestion from the study is to include “a combat exposure screen” because “such a measure may not carry the same stigma as the highly face valid measures of psychological symptoms generally used in screening batteries.”

The Journal of Counseling and Development is a research journal of The American Counseling Association.

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