Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Skepticism Remains but They'll Give it a Shot

The New York Times recently reported that the US Army plans to provide intensive mental stress training for its troops. In an effort to reduce potential mental health problems such as depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, and suicide, the US Army will require that all active-duty soldiers, reservists, and members of the National Guard undergo stress training. The training will also be available to family members and civilian employees.

There is still some skepticism about whether the program will be effective--it is modeled on techniques that have been tested mainly on middle school children--or whether the training is really needed. The army's chief of staff, General George W. Casey Jr, said that many in the military consider talk of emotion to be a sign of weakness. "I'm still not sure that our culture in ready to accept this [emotional resiliency training]."

The primary objective of the program is to teach resiliency. The training draws on recent research that suggests that people can manage stress by thinking in terms of their psychological strengths. Ultimately, the goal of the training is posttraumatic growth.

It seems that more troops these days are returning with a greater degree of mental health problems. Does anyone know if this is really the case? Or are we just hearing more about it than in the past? Why do you think there is such a high prevalence of problems for returning troops and their families? Is it because the nature of the wars we are fighting has changed?

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