Military personnel is exposed to greater psychological risks than civilians. Soldiers occasionally face scenes and events that are disturbing or implying a great responsibility for the outcomes. It is not surprising that they are often subject to psychological issues as a result of their service. Researchers have discovered that the sense of loneliness is one of the risk factors that potentially cause various mental disorders among active-duty soldiers.
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Loneliness and Health
The research article by Cacioppo et al. indicates that chronic loneliness can be potentially harmful to both civilians and military personnel (866). Issues such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and suicidal behavior are the outcomes of the continuing feeling of loneliness. This study focuses on the elements that are influencing self-perception on the socialization scale.
The issue of determining psychological risks among the military became especially problematic in the past several decades. While the government of the United States keeps deploying soldiers to different war zones in the Middle East, the mental health of troops is regularly checked. It has been found that the amount of support that a soldier received in the past and continues to get currently can determine the strength of his or her social links.
The scale of loneliness among the military can predict suicidal behavior. The combat experience does not appear to be the direct cause of suicide. It is rather upsetting memories that cause such actions. Post-traumatic stress disorder is not treated effectively if these memories are not shared. Loneliness implies a mechanism when a person who has a traumatic combat experience does not have an opportunity to share and reflect on particular memories, which can help to change the attitude towards the situation. Suicide cases of many soldiers were connected with them previously reporting the feelings of loneliness and depression.
The biggest problem that is facing the military regarding this issue is that the nature of work does not bear any signs of weakness. Soldiers must be psychologically stable and unaffected by emotions. There are preliminary tests aimed at determining the mental health of each soldier. Some tests focus on such skills as leadership or mathematical knowledge. They are drafted to determine what kind of tasks a particular soldier can effectively exercise. Others are designed to measure the potential threats in the field. For instance, there are tests that determine whether a soldier has suicidal behavior or a shooting tendency. Results affect the decision about taking candidates to battle. Those who show poor results are not deployed to prevent casualties. While these tests are quite accurate, traumatic field experience can change the situation dramatically.
There are several risk factors that contribute to the overall feeling of loneliness. Among the civilians, they include elements like the frequency of contacts with family and friends, marital status, work, and social stress, as well as others. The article describes the factors that contribute to the feeling of socialization as being predominantly connected with the service community. For instance, these factors include previous deployment, leadership, relationships inside a platoon, and organizational citizenship behavior. However, the study also includes factors that are the same for civilians.
The article provides evidence that various socio-economic characteristics do not matter much in the military community. Factors like the existence of a spouse and children and frequent contact with friends and family do not affect soldiers as much as civil citizens. Loneliness is connected with concepts specific to the military. This implies that relationships with platoon members are more important for soldiers that connections with family. This result provides a field for re-thinking the effect of cultural context on human social behavior.
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Some of the elements that associate with loneliness among active-duty soldiers include childhood traumas and other negative experience in the past. The emotional baggage that is carried by each person influences his or her behavior in the field. For instance, shy and mistreated soldiers may find it hard to connect with their platoon members, which can contribute to their sense of loneliness. Age also plays an important role, as it is harder for older soldiers to adapt to the changing conditions. Counseling can help to cope with stress in a situation when a soldier does not have anyone to share his or her feelings. Besides, it is not always possible for ordinary people to properly react to incoming information. That is why professional guidance is required that would detect the first disturbing signs and ensure loneliness is no longer an issue.
The military is a complex structure that requires personnel to sacrifice their mental health while serving in war zones. While serving in the army may bring economic benefits, they may become unnecessary for those who do not have the possibility to share them. Soldiers spending much time on active duty need to have strong relationships with their team members to prevent a sense of loneliness. Post-traumatic stress disorder and depression are the first outcomes that should be treated through psychological counseling.
Cacioppo, John T., et al. “The Cultural Context of Loneliness: Risk Factors in Active Duty Soldiers.” Journal of Social & Clinical Psychology, vol. 35, no. 10, 2016, pp. 865-882.