Dangers of the Warzone and Its Unique Stressors

All deployed personnel, medical staff included, face physical, psychological and emotional stressors, due to the ever-present dangers of living and working in an active war zone. Physical or psychological harm from the unexpected nature of mortar attacks, Improvised Explosive Devices, or small arms fire are constant threats. The indiscriminant violence wrought in modern warfare is a risk each individual had to consider at all times. These risks are highlighted in the 2008 account of an OT deployed to Iraq.

Our adjacent FOBs (Forward Operating Bases) were hit 21 times by rocket mortar attacks today, Christmas day. We were expecting to get hit, but what do you do when you’re expecting?

The emergency room (ER) doctor, here for seven days, the father of three children, was killed along with many injured by mortar attacks that day. He was on his way back from church.

I spent most of the day at the hard shelled/concrete Combat Support Hospital, which was built to withstand a blast. Due to the number of attacks we were not allowed to remain in our living area, which was a soft-shelled Containerized Housing Unit. Eventually, we were cleared to go to the COSC clinic, which was also concrete. Some people slept in the COSC building that night.

The ER doctor died at around 11 PM, approximately 5 AM eastern time. All I could think about was the casualty officer going to his house on Christmas morning. Christmas for those kids will never be the same.”

LTC Arthur Yeager, OT, US Army, Active Duty

This testimony highlights the unpredictable environment of a deployment; physical damage, loss of life, and the extent to which the lives of survivors are forever changed. Such stressors can significantly impact the psyche of a SM; with the effects lasting long after their return home. These persistent psychological effects may manifest as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depression, which are especially prevalent in those returning from war.

A recent study of approximately 289,000 veterans with mental health diagnoses estimated that 21.8 % return from deployment with PTSD and 17.4 % with depression [17]. This is a stark contrast to the national averages; 3.5 % of adults in the United States have PTSD and about 6.7 % suffer from depression [18, 19].

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