Addressing stress-related trauma in military personnel – Part 5

 Many people recover from trauma with time and through the support of family and friends, bouncing back with great resilience, but for others, the effects of trauma are lasting, causing a person to live with deep emotional pain, fear, confusion , or post-traumatic stress far after the event has passed.

Often, the support, guid­ance, and assistance of mental health professionals is fundamental to healing from trauma

Immediately after the event, shock and denial are typical. Longer term reactions include unpredict­able emotions, flashbacks, strained relationships and even physical symptoms like headaches or nausea. While these feelings are normal, some people have difficulty moving on with their lives.

After traumatic events

While some have no im­mediate ill effects; others may suffer an immediate and acute effect.

No human being is exempt­ed from stress. Stress causes a number of biological chang­es and is intended to activate the body’s fuel reserves.

The soldiers are no excep­tion except that they are comparatively in an ideal stress breeding environment due to frequent and large number of uncertainties or changes vis-à-vis civilian counterparts with similar service conditions.

When we are stressed, our pulse, blood pressure and breathing rate increases. This in turn augments the amount of available energy. The heart beats rapidly under stress and begins to pump a greater quantity of blood with each beat.

The bronchial tubes now expand to channelise extra air with each breath. The blood vessels supplying the muscles expand as well. The palms of the hands and the soles of the feet begin to sweat.

Stress is evidenced to be one of the causative factors for lifestyle disorders such as backaches and sleeplessness, hyperacidity, gas, chronic fatigue syndrome, heart disease, diabetes and even cancer.

In addition, hormonal imbalances caused by stress responses can cause fibroid tumours and endometrio­sis. Stress is also linked to infertility problems among couples.

The chronic stress respons­es can either lead to aggres­sion or depression in people, depending on the personality traits of individual. While the individuals with aggressive attitude suffering from chron­ic stress are prone to commit fratricide, the individuals with depressive tendencies are prone to commit suicide.

There were as many as 635 cases of suicide including attempted suicides and 67 cases of fratricidal killings in the three services of Armed Forces during the years 2003 to 2007.

These statistics also indi­cate that the Army was worst affected by this malady in terms of number of cases of suicides and fratricides in each of the year during this period. The statistics are chilling.

According to the Ministry of Defense,-India- every third day a soldier is com­mitting suicide, at a rate higher than the toll taken by the militants. From 2007 to May 2010, 208 soldiers lost their lives in actions against militants while 368 soldiers killed themselves during this period.

Another 15 to 30 soldiers try to kill themselves every year, but fail. The worry is that they might try again.

This alarming trend of suicides and fratricidal killings in the Armed Forc­es during the recent past is attributable to enhanced stress environment leading to psychological imbalance in the soldiers.

From Robert Ekow Grimmond-Thompson

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