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Consider Adverse Childhood Experiences Pre- and Post-Deployment


Members of the armed forces go through a battery of physical and psychological tests prior to serving. If they are deployed, they undergo even further testing upon return home. But in recent years the number of military suicides has increased concern with respect to the mental health of soldiers prior to and after deployment. Researchers have shown that certain conditions, in particular, adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), put people at risk for mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression. ACEs include physical abuse, neglect, emotional abuse, childhood sexual abuse, maltreatment, poverty, parental substance abuse, and parental conflict and divorce. Based on this knowledge, Jitender Sareen of the Department of Psychiatry, Psychology, and Community Health Sciences at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada wanted to see how ACEs affected the development of mood and anxiety problems in military personnel. Understanding how ACEs contribute to psychological problems could allow for screening of those most at risk for further mental health problems and suicidal behavior.

For the study, Sareen evaluated data from over 8,000 members of the Canadian Forces and looked at different types of childhood abuse, domestic violence, parental psychological issues, divorce, physical health of child, and foster care services utilized. Mental health conditions including PTSD, social phobia, depression, panic, and generalized anxiety were assessed as well. Sareen found that ACEs significantly increased the likelihood of anxiety or mood issues in the participants. Those participants who had been exposed to deployment-related trauma experiences (DRTEs) without a history of ACEs were at slightly lower risk of developing mental health problems. However, those who had experienced both ACEs and DRTEs were extremely vulnerable to both anxiety- and mood-related problems post deployment. These results give some clues as to which members of the military may be at greatest risk of psychological impairment and potential suicide. “These findings underscore the importance of considering ACEs in pre-deployment and post-deployment intervention strategies for soldiers,” said Sareen.

Sareen, J., et al. Adverse childhood experiences in relation to mood and anxiety disorders in a population-based sample of active military personnel. Psychological Medicine 43.1 (2013): 73-84. ProQuest Research Library. Web. 30 Jan. 2013

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  • MelY February 8th, 2013 at 11:13 AM #1

    Adverse childhood experiences can effect anyone in a manner that makes them unable to properly function as an adult.
    This must be tenfold for a soldier!
    Given the added stress and pressure that many of them already feel, having experienced something so horrible in childhood, especially if they haven’t yet processed it, has to make things even more of a challenge.

  • joyce February 9th, 2013 at 11:22 PM #2

    Any health record will contain a list of know issues from the past. So why not mental issues?? I’m just surprised they don’t already have this in place. If you’re training your ersonnel to be fit nit just physically but mentally as well then it makes sense to go through their medical history in that particular aspect too!!

  • RYAN February 10th, 2013 at 9:54 AM #3

    Bad experiences and abuse in childhood can leave a scar that stays for a long long time,Add the pressure of serving in the armed forces to the mix and it can get overwhelming.You may never know how this mix turns out.It could be an incident of violence or depression and injury to the self.Either way it has to be kept in consideration for all those in the armed forces.

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