Promoting Psychological Resilience in the U.S. Military

By Lisa S. Meredith; Cathy D. Sherbourne et al. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER ONE
Introduction, Study Objectives, and Approach

Overview and Study Purpose

There has been increasing media attention on the mental health conditions and cognitive impairments that affect many service members participating in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). Most military personnel do not return from deployments with these “invisible wounds” (Tanielian and Jaycox, 2008). However, only about half of those who do return with symptoms consistent with a diagnosis of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression see a health care professional for help. In response, former President George W. Bush, Congress, the Department of Defense (DoD), and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) convened a number of task forces (e.g., Department of Defense Task Force on Mental Health, 2007), commissions, and reviews to highlight major problems and associated solutions, including more resources, policy changes, and stepped-up assessment of efforts to improve care for psychological health problems and traumatic brain injuries (TBI). As part of these efforts, there has been increasing attention on the importance of enhancing psychological resilience (the process of coping with or overcoming exposure to adversity or stress [Wald et al., 2006]) and developing programs to support the military community to increase resilience in light of on going deployments.

Psychological resilience is seen as an important component of duty fitness because the operational tempo associated with the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan has been demanding for U.S. service members and their families. Service members who are deploying for extended periods on a repeated basis face risks associated with combat that may challenge individuals’ and families’ coping resources. While most military personnel and their families report coping successfully under these difficult circumstances, many also experience difficulties handling stress at some point. There are, however, programs and strategies available to promote and support psychological resilience to stress—specifically deployment-related stress. An important distinction between approaches to promote resilience, as compared with traditional medical interventions, is the emphasis on prevention as opposed to treatment.

The research on psychological resilience has not been in a form that can be used easily by the military to identify which factors are informed by scientific evidence.

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