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The view that most military personnel evacuated from war zones are suffering from combat stress reactions, or are otherwise traumatised by the horrors of war, has an impact on all aspects of military psychiatry.
To delineate the reasons for psychiatric aeromedical evacuation from Iraq from the start of build-up of UK forces in January 2003 until the end of October that year, 6 months after the end of formal hostilities.
A retrospective study was conducted of field and in-patient psychiatric assessments of 116 military personnel evacuated to the UK military psychiatric in-patient facility in Catterick Garrison.
Evacuees were mainly non-combatants (69%). A significant proportion were in reserve service (21%) and had a history of contact with mental health services (37%). Only 3% had a combat stress reaction. In over 85% of cases evacuation was for low mood attributed to separation from friends or family, or difficulties adjusting to the environment.
These findings have implications especially for screening for suitability for deployment, and for understanding any longer-term mental health problems arising in veterans from Iraq.
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