Postdeployment Support Can Reduce Mental Health Issues for Veterans

The rate of psychological distress among military veterans has increased dramatically in recent years. This could be due in part to the large number of military personnel returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The mental health problems that develop in these individuals cover a broad spectrum of issues, but many report symptoms of posttraumatic stress (PTSD), depression, anxiety, and drug and alcohol misuse. Veterans face many challenges when they return from war, and the additional strain of mental health problems can make reintegration into civilian society that much more difficult. Therefore, every effort should be made to determine what increases the risk of these issues in veterans and what can be done to minimize negative outcomes.

Lisa M. James of the Brain Sciences Center at the Minneapolis Veterans Affairs Health Care System in Minnesota wanted to contribute to this effort by examining what predeployment and postdeployment factors most influenced psychological stress for veterans. Using a sample of 271 veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq, James examined neuroticism, specifically as it related the fear of combat/deployment threat, as well as predeployment stressors, combat history, and postdeployment support in the participants. She assessed them six months after they returned from combat and two more times over the following 18 months to see how these factors influenced PTSD, depression, and other mental health issues.

James found a direct link between neuroticism and mental health at all assessments. In particular, she noticed that veterans with high levels of neuroticism were at high risk of developing PTSD and depression. Also, the perception of threat increased the risk for PTSD and depression in the first year postdeployment. She found no link between any of these factors and the risk of alcohol misuse. However, she did find a positive link between strong social support postdeployment and low psychological distress for all the participants. James said, “Efforts aimed at increasing sustained postdeployment social support may help defend against significant mental health problems among veterans.”

James, Lisa M. (2013). Risk and protective factors associated with symptoms of post-traumatic stress, depression, and alcohol misuse in OEF/OIF veterans. Military Medicine 178.2: 159-65. Print.

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  • Alex


    March 26th, 2013 at 11:39 PM

    not easy to cope with the stressors that being in a battle and months away from home can give…I just hope they have better support and coping techniques moving forward…!

  • Rosa


    March 27th, 2013 at 3:46 AM

    Anyone who has been through a stressful situation like deployment status should have all of the support that they can find when coming back form something like that. I could not make it through my day alone, much less coming back from war and feeling like I am alone This is a time when not only the VA needs to step up its game, but so do friends and family. We can’t leave these soldiers who have done so much selflessly for all of us lose their way when they have the chance to come back home

  • shana


    March 27th, 2013 at 11:38 PM

    we’ve had these wars going on for what, 10 yrs now?

    and we sill dont have effective means to help our veterans or even while they are on duty?

    bombarding and combating the enemy is one thing. but taking good care of your men is just as important in any war!

  • Jane Marone

    Jane Marone

    March 28th, 2013 at 2:17 PM

    It’s going to help with their mental health, yes, but it is also going to help them to receive medical help for physical things too. Where did all of the support that we once all felt for our veterans be downplayed because of our own political beliefs? They are just doing their jobs and we are not doing anything in return for them when they finally get to come back home.

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