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Sunday, February 24, 2013

PTSD in Drone Pilots shows how non-deployed are at risk too

The drone pilots getting hit by PTSD without having to set foot in combat can help with understanding how non-deployed troops can suffer from it as well.

Women are more likely to suffer from PTSD as pointed out by the Mayo Clinic. Here is the list of causes. Notice right at the top is combat exposure.
Kinds of traumatic events
Post-traumatic stress disorder is especially common among those who have served in combat. It's sometimes called "shell shock," "battle fatigue" or "combat stress."
The most common events leading to the development of PTSD include:
Combat exposure
Rape
Childhood neglect and physical abuse
Sexual molestation
Physical attack
Being threatened with a weapon
But many other traumatic events also can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder, including fire, natural disaster, mugging, robbery, assault, civil conflict, car accident, plane crash, torture, kidnapping, life-threatening medical diagnosis, terrorist attack and other extreme or life-threatening events.
So how can they get it without risking their lives? Seeing it happen in front of their own eyes.
There have been few studies on non-deployed forces and the psychiatric illness. NON-BATTLE INJURY & NON-BATTLE PSYCHIATRIC ILLNESS IN DEPLOYED AIR FORCE MEMBERS by Melinda Eaton in 2010.
The overall incidence of non-battle non-drug psychiatric illness in deployed Air Force members was 7.76 non-battle non-drug psychiatric illnesses per 1,000 person-years deployed. The incidence of non-battle non-drug psychiatric illness increased as the operations progressed with the invasion phase and both stabilization phases having a higher incidence rate than the buildup phase. Higher incidence rates were also seen in females, junior officers, and the Reserve members. Results from this study are intended to facilitate the development of proper training and prevention programs to maximize operational efficiency as well as to reduce non-battle injuries and non-battle psychiatric illnesses in a deployed environment.
There have been even less studies on how many develop PTSD after training even though the method of training has changed over the years to reflect the way wars are fought. Gone are the days when members of a nation wore uniforms and respected the rules of war.

As training for ground forces has evolved, so too has the training for pilots when they sit in a building thousands of miles away from combat, watching, waiting and witnessing what is happening to the ground forces as well as civilians topped off with armed drones able to participate in the action.

This is a good look at what we're talking about.
Drone Pilots Are Found to Get Stress Disorders Much as Those in Combat Do
New York Times
By JAMES DAO
Published: February 22, 2013

In the first study of its kind, researchers with the Defense Department have found that pilots of drone aircraft experience mental health problems like depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress at the same rate as pilots of manned aircraft who are deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan.

The study affirms a growing body of research finding health hazards even for those piloting machines from bases far from actual combat zones.

“Though it might be thousands of miles from the battlefield, this work still involves tough stressors and has tough consequences for those crews,” said Peter W. Singer, a scholar at the Brookings Institution who has written extensively about drones. He was not involved in the new research.

That study, by the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center, which analyzes health trends among military personnel, did not try to explain the sources of mental health problems among drone pilots.

But Air Force officials and independent experts have suggested several potential causes, among them witnessing combat violence on live video feeds, working in isolation or under inflexible shift hours, juggling the simultaneous demands of home life with combat operations and dealing with intense stress because of crew shortages.
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