Are Indian Peacekeepers on Path to Mental Peace? VC01-VC05
Dr. Siddharth Dixit,
Command Hospital Southern Command Pune, Maharashtra, India.
Introduction: There is paucity of literature on mental morbidity of United Nations (UN) peace keeping soldiers. Peacekeeping mission implies overseas deployment, hostile and harsh conditions, armed conflict and disregard on the part of some local parties for peacekeepers’ security and role. This places the Indian peacekeepers at risk for mental health problems. There is a considerable knowledge gap regarding mental health status of Indian peacekeepers.
Aim: To study the socio-demographic profile and mental morbidity in soldiers repatriated from UN Peacekeeping mission.
Materials and Methods: All consecutive Indian soldiers repatriated from various UN Missions on mental health grounds during the study period were assessed on a specially designed proforma for their socio-demographic profile and psychosocial stressors. Extent of their combat exposure was assessed post repatriation using Combat experience scale of Deployment Risk and Resilience Inventory (DRRI). Data was analysed where categorical data was described as per their frequency and continuous data as mean and standard deviation.
Results: Total 37507 people were deployed during the study period (2011-2015) on various UN missions. A total of 23 patients were repatriated due to mental illness. Incidence of mental illness per year of UN stay was between 0.34 to 0.87. Out of 23 repatriated soldiers; within a month, three (13%) and within three months, five (21.7%) soldiers were repatriated. Of repatriated soldiers, people who outsourced their psychiatric treatment before disembarking were 8.6%, and people who had past record of mental illness were 4%. Amongst psychiatric morbidity, major depression was observed in 26%, substance use disorder in 17.4%, panic disorder and mixed anxiety disorder was diagnosed in 13% each. There were no cases of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and attempted suicide.
Conclusion: This study is first of its kind on mental health of Indian peacekeepers. Low incidence of mental morbidity, absence of attempted suicide and PTSD validates the multidimensional steps taken by army to tackle stress. This study fills the factual void on peacekeepers and provides useful information for commanders and policy makers to reduce repatriation on mental health grounds. However, long term follow-up studies are needed to study the impact of overseas deployment on Indian soldiers.