Soldiers in unpopular wars have higher risk of PTSD


Can Welcome Home parades and yellow ribbon campaigns really reduce instances of post-traumatic stress disorder for soldiers coming home from war? One study suggests they can.

Choose your battles wisely

David Webber, a PhD student in the University of Alberta’s Department of Psychology, and his supervisor Jeff Schimel say that the level of public support for a war could influence the level of mental distress combatants feel when they return home.

Webber suggests that politicians choose their battles wisely – based on very real reasons and checking public support. After that, communities and organizations need to make sure soldiers feel supported.

Distress came when violent acts weren’t socially validated

For the study, the researchers asked participants to exterminate a number of woodlice. In one a study, they prepped another participant, an actor, who feigned either interest or disgust at the notion of the task. In the second study, participants were asked to keep a logbook recording who participated in the killing and who refused.

During both experiments, participants felt increased levels of guilt and distress when the participation was refused and not socially validated.

“We did have some participants who showed some clear distress not only when going through the initial act of killing, but also after finding that somebody else had refused to do it,” explained Webber. “There were some clear physical signs that people were uncomfortable after they found out it was invalidated by other people.”

Legitimate wars have public support, protect soldiers

“When decisions are made to go to war, they should be based less on fear and insecurity and more in hard realities, such as if the country has been attacked,” said Webber. “If the decisions are undertaken with good reason, with legitimate evidence behind them, protests should be less likely and invalidation should be less of a problem.

Source: University of Alberta, MedicalNewsToday


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