From peacekeeping to providing humanitarian aid, from enforcing anti-terrorism measures to helping combat the international drugs trade, UK military personnel are often sent on short-term deployments to emergencies with little time for rest and recuperation between deployments.
The military expects its personnel to be prepared from a public and occupational health perspective, while at the same time recognising travel and tropical health risks.
Some deployments require personnel to travel with as little as five days or less notice. This means difficulties regarding what preparation would normally be recommended and what can be achieved in the time available.
The non-combat related risks faced by UK military personnel are similar to those faced by other travellers to similar destinations.
UK military operations are in many ways akin to exploration or research expeditions and on some occasions, its personnel have carried out relief work as during the recent UK military deployment to Sierra Leone in September 2014 as part of the government’s response to the Ebola outbreak.
Military personnel may operate in small teams and deploy to multiple locations over a short period of time making the diagnosis of environmentally related infectious diseases challenging.
Other potential illnesses, however, are similar to those faced by expedition team members or multi-destination travellers. All military personnel are briefed in advance about possible risks and are supported on return by their own general practice, occupational, environmental or public health services.
Recent operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Sierra Leone have exposed personnel to high-stress environments with personnel witnessing trauma regularly. Military deaths in Northern Ireland were around 300 to 400 over 30 years while in Afghanistan there were more than 400 deaths in 9 years.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
(PTSD) in those returning from combat areas has increased over recent years and a significant period may elapse before clinical presentation and symptoms develop and they may recur when personnel return to the operational environment.
It is not unique to the military and is increasingly recognised as a widespread problem in relation to past stressful situations.
The features of post-traumatic stress are not unique to the condition but if several of the features in the list shown are present it should be considered, especially if the sufferer can identify a trigger experience.
Support services available include those from counsellors such as padres, line managers, and trauma risk management practitioners.
It is estimated that 1 in 2 people experience serious stress some time in their lives and 20% go on to develop post-traumatic stress See PTSD UK for more information