Third location decompression (TLD) aims to allow personnel to begin to psychologically ‘unwind’ after deploying. This study compares mental health outcomes and readjustment in personnel who did or did not attend TLD. The study’s main findings are that TLD attendees reported similar levels of readjustment difficulties to non-attendees, irrespective of the level of combat exposure. However, TLD appeared to reduce the incidence of PTSD, Multiple Physical Symptoms and harmful alcohol abuse in some groups.
Third Location Decompression (TLD) is an activity undertaken by UK Armed Forces (UK AF) personnel at the end of an operational deployment, which aims to smooth the transition between operations and returning home. We assessed whether TLD impacted upon both mental health and postdeployment readjustment. This study found that TLD had a positive impact upon mental health outcomes (post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and multiple physical symptoms) and levels of harmful alcohol use. However, when the samples were stratified by combat exposure, although postdeployment readjustment was similar for all exposure levels, personnel experiencing low and moderate levels of combat exposure experienced the greatest positive mental health effects. We found no evidence to suggest that TLD promotes better postdeployment readjustment; however, we found a positive impact upon alcohol use and mental health with an interaction with degree of combat exposure. This study suggests that TLD is a useful postdeployment transitional activity that may help to improve PTSD symptoms and alcohol use in UK AF personnel.
Jones N, Jones M, Fear NT, Fertout M, Wessely S Greenberg N. Can mental health and readjustment be improved in UK military personnel by a brief period of structured postdeployment rest (third location decompression)? (Occupational Environmental Medicine 2013: 70: 439-445. doi: 10.1136oemed-2012-101229).