Psychiatric Symptomatology Associated with Contemporary Peacekeeping: An Examination of Post-Mission Functioning Among Peacekeepers in Somalia

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Abstract

Contemporary peacekeepers frequently confront complex stressors including the need to directly enforce peace between warring factions, to deliver humanitarian aid in the midst of political-social devastation, and to balance shifting rules of engagement. As such, it is proposed that participants may be at increased risk for the development of psychiatric distress. The present study examined the types of stressors encountered by 3,461 peacekeepers in Somalia, their current psychiatric functioning as measured by the Brief Symptom Inventory, and the relationship between exposure to various stressors and adjustment. Over one third of participants met criteria for psychiatric caseness. The most commonly reported symptoms included hostility, psychoticism, depression, and paranoid ideation. The best predictors of current functioning were found to be exposure to traditional war-zone-related stressors and general military pride and cohesion. These findings highlight the mental health consequences that service in a peacekeeping mission may have for United States soldiers. Further research is needed to investigate potential mechanisms that could serve as buffers to the stress associated with peacekeeping service.

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