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Armed Forces: Health

Volume 686: debated on Wednesday 8 November 2006

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether a recent review of procedures for family members and colleagues to report concerns about the health of serving Armed Forces personnel has been undertaken.[HL7833]

A review of the Army post-operational stress management (POSM) policy was undertaken in September 2005. No substantive changes were made to the section of the policy relating to the role of families and colleagues in detecting mental ill health, since it already recognised that friends and family, colleagues, and those in the chain of command all have a part to play in detecting and managing operational stress. The policy recognises that they are often the first to notice changes of mood, behaviour or work performance in someone who has returned from an operational tour.

We emphasise the importance of families being made fully aware of the warning signs and symptoms, what they can do and who can help them, and we offer presentations and leaflets as part of this educational process.

Efforts are also made to arrange a “decompression period” for personnel immediately prior to returning from deployment. The exact form of the decompression period varies between the services and depends on the individual unit's circumstances, but in general it allows personnel mentally and physically to unwind after their operational tour and provides them with the opportunity to talk to friends, colleagues and superiors about their experiences.

The individual unit's chain of command uses the decompression period to monitor and identify those personnel who are apparently most vulnerable to any form of post-operational stress or stress-related condition. During this time, all personnel are offered a briefing on post-operational stress.

Once back at their home base, if treatment is required for a mental health condition this is provided either as out-patient treatment in one of our 15 regional departments of community mental health (DCMHs) in the UK or satellite centres overseas, or as in-patient treatment at regional facilities run by the Priory Group. The regional locations of the DCMHs and the Priory facilities mean that treatment can be provided close to an individual's unit, base or home, thus allowing the vital support from families to continue.