Post-Deployment Evaluation: an upcoming psychological Challenge

Due to growing field experience with psychological challenges of combat- or conflict-based trauma the body of (especially military psychology-related) literature on prevalence and assessment of post-deployment stress recently has rapidly expanded. Although the methodologically refined study of Wittchen at al. (2012) shows that PTSD-prevalence in German Afghanistan-based units is far lower than reported especially in US-combat troops after redeployment from Afghanistan and Iraq, the report still documents that about 45 % of the expected cases go unnoticed and unreported. This is especially alarming, as we can conclude from Morey at al. (2011) that health issues are very likely to emerge post-deployment. In general these findings will apply to civilian personnel in conflict regions as well.

Apart from prevalence research new generations of brief measurement scales for the traumatic impact of events and experiences are in development (e.g., Bonanno & Pat-Horenczyk, 2011; Carlson et. al, 2011), which offers added potential for prevention.

While it is unknown to us, how far a systematic post-deployment process that incorporates psychological prevention activities is implemented in international organizations´and multinationals´ policies for returning experts from crisis-prone locations, we would like to propose a threefold general approach to assess possible risks: a multi-method post-deployment evaluation that is based on a mix of focus groups, expert interviews, and an online-survey that utilizes selected psychometric instruments.

We especially propose to utilize some measure of resilience (see Meredith et al. 2011) as well as psychological hardiness – a mental construct that has turned out to be extremely useful in assessing personnel for occupational high stress and high commitment environments (Bartone, 1991; Bartone et al., 2008, Carston & Gardner, 2009).

To arrive at a better understanding of the stressors in conflict zones a (possibly adapted) version of Katz et al.´s (2012) current measurement scale could be used.

The integration of (short) scales to measure resilience and psychological hardiness in combination with a systematic sampling of conflict-/combat-experience might not only provide a framework for a better understanding of post-deployment risk- and support-factors, but can add as well considerable insight into the design of psychometric pre-selection tools, until now not utilized to their full potential.

References

Bartone, P.T. (1991). Development and validation of a short hardiness measure. Paper presented at the third annual convention of the APA. Washington, D.C..

Bartone, P.T., Picano, J.L. & Williams, T.J. (2008). Psychological hardiness predicts success in US Army Special Forces candidates. International Journal of Selection and Assessment, 16 (1): 78-81.

Bonanno, G.A. & Pat-Horenczyk, R. (2011). Coping flexibility and trauma: the perceived ability to cope with trauma (PACT) Scale. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 3 (2): 117–129.

Carlson, E.B., Smith, S.R., Palmieri, P.A., Dalenberg, C., Ruzek, J.I., Kimerling, R., Burling, T.A. & Spain, D.A. (2011). Development and validation of a brief self-report measure of trauma exposure: The trauma history screen. Psychological Assessment, 23 (2): 463–477.

Carston, M.C. & Gardner, D. (2009). Cognitive Hardiness in the New Zealand Military. New Zealand Journal of Psychology, 38 (3): 26-34.

Hoge, C.W., Auchterlonie, J.L. & Milliken, C.S. (2006). Mental health problems, use of mental health services, and attrition from military service after returning from deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan. JAMA, 295: 1023–32.

Hotopf, M., Hull, L., Fear, N.T., Browne, T., Horn, O., Iversen, A. et al. (2006). The health of UK military personnel who deployed to the 2003 Iraq war: A cohort study. Lancet, 367: 1731–41.

Janassary, A, Valier, H. & Vollmer, S. (Eds.). (2011). Roster Management. Handbook. Berlin: ZIF.

Katz, L.S., Cojucar, G., Davenport, C., Clarke, S. & Williams, J.C. (2012). War Experiences Inventory: Initial psychometric and structural properties. Military Psychology, 24 (1): 48-70.

Meredith, L.S., Sherbourne, C.D., Gaillot, S., Hansell, L. Ritschard, H.V., Parker, A.M. & Wrenn, G. (2011). Promoting psychological Resilience in the U.S. Military. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation.

Morey, L.C., Lowmaster, S.E., Coldren, R.L., Kelly, M.P., Parish, R.V. & Russell, M.L. (2011). Personality assessment inventory profiles of deployed combat troops: An empirical investigation of normative performance. Psychological Assessment, 23 (2): 456–462.

Schlenger, W.E., Kulka, R.A., Fairbank, J.A., Hough, R.L., Jordan, B.K., Marmar, C.R. et al. (1992). The prevalence of posttraumatic-stress-disorder in the Vietnam generation – multimethod, multisource assessment of psychiatric disorder. J Trauma Stress, 5: 333–63.

Solomon, Z. (1989). A 3-Year Prospective Study of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder in Israeli Combat Veterans. J Trauma Stress, 2: 59–73.

Wittchen H.U., Schönfeld S., Kirschbaum C. et al. (2012). Traumatic experiences and posttraumatic stress disorder in soldiers following deployment abroad: how big is the hidden problem? Dtsch Arztebl Int, 109 (35–36): 559–68.

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