Active-duty members of our armed forces are fully employed by the branch of service that they represent. They usually live on or near the military base that they are affiliated with, and their families have access to resources designed to address the needs of military life. However, military reservists do not always live in the same conditions as active-duty personnel. For instance, many reservists hold down civilian jobs and live in civilian areas that are not designed as military housing. But both active-duty and reserve personnel can be called on to serve in combat. Therefore, understanding the stresses that precipitate and result from serving in a combat zone is important in order to address the mental health challenges of these soldiers.
To find out how the mental well-being of military reservists differs from that of active-duty military personnel, Marian E. Lane, Ph.D., of the Substance Abuse, Epidemiology and Military Behavioral Health Program at RTI International in the Research Triangle Park in North Carolina, recently led a study that examined data from more than 18,000 reservists and more than 16,000 active-duty military members. She found that among nondeployed personnel, reservists had lower levels of stress, anxiety, and depression than their active-duty counterparts. However, rates of posttraumatic stress (PTSD) and suicidal ideation were significantly higher in the deployed reservists compared to deployed active-duty personnel.
Lane believes that reservists may react more extremely to the anxiety of potential deployment than active-duty personnel because they are somewhat removed from the daily stresses of military action. When they are called to serve, they have to consider the ramifications their actions will have on their families, their employment, and their finances. These additional stresses can cause reservists to experience sharper declines in mental health both before and after deployment. It is imperative to consider these issues when designing treatments to help all military personnel cope with the difficulties of serving their country. However, Lane added, “Continued research efforts aimed at providing services and interventions tailored to reservists will better facilitate the successful return and reintegration of service members experiencing postdeployment mental health issues.”
Lane, M. E., Hourani, L. L., Bray, R. M., Williams, J. (2012). Prevalence of perceived stress and mental health indicators among reserve-component and active-duty military personnel. American Journal of Public Health, 102.6, 1213-1220.
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