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Wednesday, 8 March, 2000, 01:11 GMT
Stress training 'could help soldiers'
British soldiers in Bosnia
British soldiers who served in Bosnia were studied
Psychological help before and after active service might prevent alcohol abuse in military personnel, say experts.

Many soldiers who have experienced harrowing conflicts drink heavily on their return as a way of dealing with what they have seen.

However, a "psychological debriefing" could prevent this happening, as could stress training before active service.

A study carried out at St Bartholemew's Hospital in east London compared the mental health of soldiers who had been debriefed with those who had no debriefing.

Bosnia soldiers

All had served in Bosnia, and had additionally been given an "operational stress" training programme before leaving the UK.

Only those who had been exposed to traumatic events, such as coming under fire, or carrying bodies, were included in the research on their return.

Although the levels of post traumatic stress disorder were similar in both groups, the debriefed group were far less likely to report alcohol abuse in the following year.

The authors of the report suggest that the military and emergency services have a "duty of care" to their employees, and could introduce a comprehensive programme of stress training and debriefing to safeguard their mental health.

"There were very low rates of post traumatic stress disorder," said psychiatrist Dr Martin Deahl, "and the operational stress training package may have contributed to this.

"Trauma counselling and debriefing are extremely controversial, and recent reports have suggested that it is of no benefit.

"But our study shows that debriefing may help to reduce subsequent alcohol misuse."

The research was published in the British Journal of Medical Psychology.
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