Predicting PTSD in deploying soldiers

Canada’s peacekeepers suffer similar rates of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD) as combat, war-zone soldiers, according to a London, Ont. research team.

Psychiatrist J. Donald Richardson and his co-investigators also found that PTSD rates and severity were associated with younger age, single marital status and deployment frequency.

Richardson is a consultant psychiatrist with the Operational Stress Injury Clinic at Parkwood Hospital, part of St. Joseph’s Health Care, London and a professor with the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry at The University of Western Ontario.

His team conducted a random, national survey of more than 1,000 Canadian peacekeeping veterans with service-related disabilities. The participants were below the age of 65 and had served with the Canadian Forces from 1990 to 1999.

The research, published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, found a third of veterans deployed more than once suffered probable clinical depression, and 30 per cent of those deployed one time were affected.

The rates of probable PTSD were 11 per cent for those deployed once and 15 per cent for those deployed more than once. The authors also found peacekeepers were more likely to have PTSD and more severe symptoms if they were young, single, or had multiple deployments.

“This study has important clinical implications because understanding such risk factors can help predict potential psychiatric problems in veterans who have been deployed,” says Richardson.

“The high rates of depression observed in deployed veterans can have a significant impact when they seek treatment for PTSD because depression must be aggressively treated to help patients respond more effectively to psychotherapy.”

“Many veterans are also living and working in the community as civilians, therefore it is important that primary care physicians and psychiatrists become more knowledgeable about the emotional impact of military deployment and screen for possible PTSD,” says Richardson.

The Operational Stress Injury Clinic is funded by Veterans Affairs Canada and provides specialized services to help veterans and members of the Canadian Forces deal with PTSD, anxiety, depression or addiction resulting from military service.


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