Deployment is an important part of every military career and most service members return from deployment with a sense of satisfaction. This research compares the protocols and practices of mental health support, in five partnering NATO countries, before, during and after deployment.
Many military forces have recently systematized the mental support that is provided to support operational deployments. However, the rationale for doing so and the consequential allocation of resources are felt to vary considerably across North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) International Security Assistance (ISAF) partners. This review aimed to compare the organization and practice of mental support by five partnering countries in the recent deployment in Afghanistan in order to identify and compare the key methods and structures for delivering mental health support, describe bottlenecks and illustrate new developments. All forces reported that much attention was paid to mental health during the individual's military career, including deployment. In doing so there was much overlap between the rationale and applied methods. This analysis demonstrated that in all five partners state-of-the-art preventative mental healthcare was included in the last deployment in Afghanistan, including a positive approach towards strengthening the mental resilience, a focus on self-regulatory skills and self-empowerment, and several initiatives that were well-integrated in a military context. These initiatives were partly/completely implemented by the military/colleagues/supervisors and applicable during several phases of the deployment cycle. Important new developments in operational mental health support are recognition of the role of social leadership and enhancement of operational peer support. This requires awareness of mental problems that will contribute to reduction of the barriers to care in case of problems. Finally, comparing mental health support services across countries can contribute to optimal preparation for the challenges of military deployment.
Eric Vermetten, Neil Greenberg, Manon A. Boeschoten, Roos Delahaije, Rakesh Jetly, Carl A. Castro, Alexander C. McFarlane, 2014, Eur J Psychotraumatol, Deployment-related mental health support: comparative analysis of NATO and allied ISAF partners, 5.