Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Behind The Camouflage

"For reasons no one understands ... the people that end up being attracted to or choose military service -- for whatever reason -- have higher rates of exposure to childhood adversity than civilians, or people who don't elect to be in the military."
"And given that childhood adversity is such a powerful risk factor for depression, and for suicidal thinking, suicidal behaviour and many other adverse health outcomes -- that, I think, is an important piece of the picture."
"[Researchers] haven't dug deep enough yet [to fully understand the links]. We'll know a lot more in a little bit of time. They [research findings] were very preliminary numbers. If it didn't fit in with the larger narrative we saw elsewhere, we wouldn't have presented it."
Dr. Mark Zamorski, Canadian 2015 study co-author

"These findings suggest that evaluation of childhood trauma is important in the clinical assessment and treatment of depressive symptoms and suicidal ideation among military personnel and veterans."
Dr. Nagy Youssef, 2013 study, United States
Canadian forces see an extraordinarily high rate of depression, estimated at around 8 per cent in the last mental-health survey.
Lars Hagberg / THE CANADIAN PRESS file photo   Canadian forces see an extraordinarily high rate of depression, estimated at around 8 per cent in the last mental-health survey.

Most people might assume that the military attracts confident, self-assured people looking for a career in public security dedicated to upholding the values of one's country, combining patriotism with a sense of duty and a wish to be integrally involved at the fighting-level in defence of one's nation. Since people have to pass tests to ensure they are physically fit, as well as other tests to make certain that they have no serious psychological road-blocks to pursuing their duties in the military, one might think these represent sufficient guards against absorbing individuals whose traumatized past will interfere with their professional future.

On the other hand, in both Canada and the United States the issue of post-traumatic stress disorder and a seemingly unusual high number of suicides has taken the news since both countries were involved in the unexpectedly long conflict in Afghanistan. Statistics both uphold the view that the number of suicides by veterans of conflict are higher than those in the general population, and claims that they are no higher. The occurrence of psychological trauma resulting from exposure to conflict  however, has caused high numbers of PST, enough to concern government and the military for its high cost in recognition, treatment and inability of enlisted personnel to pursue their professional duties.

In 2013, a major American study was undertaken by the mental-health research branch of the Veterans Administration, Duke University and the University of Alabama. That research study concluded with the realization that abuse, neglect and allied childhood problems contributed to problems for soldiers in later life. And now, the preliminary results of an not-yet-published study conducted by health researchers at Canada's Department of National Defence, with research carried out by the department of psychiatry, University of Manitoba and the Canadian Forces Directorate of Mental Health, has reached a similar conclusion.

Results suggest that 39 percent of members of the Canadian military had been slapped or spanked as children, with comparable research on the general population indicating that 22 percent of civilians suffered a similar experience as children. Seventeen percent of military members reported that they were thrown, pushed or grabbed more than three times as children, in comparison with 22 percent of civilians. Military respondents reported that 15 percent had been kicked, bitten, punched, choked, burned or attacked as youngsters, while civilian counterparts represented ten percent suffering like events.

And ten percent of soldiers reported having witnessed "intimate partner violence" while they were growing up. The civilian figure was 8 percent. Data derived from the mental-health portion of the 2012 Canadian Community Health survey, which questioned over 25,000 individuals, and the 2013 Canadian Forces Mental Health Survey based on responses from over 8,100 members of the military provided the figures for the study. Those numbers are critical in the understanding of just why it is that Canadian military personnel experience a higher than average rate of depression, linked to suicide, according to Dr. Zamorski.

Perhaps when the study has been finalized, another facet of the puzzle may also be answered; why it is that people who suffered physical and mental intimidation as children seem to gravitate to the military, where discipline can be seen by some as coercive and difficult, perhaps balanced by the fact that within the military, its members tend to view one another as part of one big family looking out for one another. Or is that too, a myth?

And perhaps as another by-product of the study it could be extended to reason out why it is that children of military members appear to suffer more abuse at the hands of their parents than children in the general population. The popular hypothesis is that the stress that military families undergo takes its toll on the welfare of their children. Or could it be that members of the military who had suffered abuse as children themselves, were imprinted at a young age with the pathology of abuse which they in turn impose on their own children?

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