Psychological sequelae following the Gulf War. Factors associated with subsequent morbidity and the effectiveness of psychological debriefing

M P Deahl, A B Gillham, J Thomas, M M Searle, M Srinivasan
British Journal of Psychiatry 1994, 165 (1): 60-5

BACKGROUND: The aim was to study the effect of brief counselling and psychological debriefing following a trauma on subsequent morbidity.

METHOD: We investigated psychological morbidity in 62 British soldiers whose duties included the handling and identification of dead bodies of allied and enemy soldiers during the Gulf War. Of these soldiers, 69% received a psychological debriefing on completion of their duties. The subjects completed by post a demographic questionnaire, the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-28) and the Impact of Events Scale.

RESULTS: After nine months 50% had evidence of some psychological disturbance suggestive of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD); 18% had sought professional help; 26% reported relationship difficulties. Neither prior training nor the psychological intervention appeared to make any difference to subsequent psychiatric morbidity. Morbidity at nine months was more likely in those with a history of psychological problems and those who believed their lives had been in danger in the Gulf.

CONCLUSIONS: These findings show that a psychological debriefing following a series of traumatic events or experiences does not appear to reduce subsequent psychiatric morbidity and highlights the need for further research in military and civilian settings.

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