The relationship between trauma, social support, and postdeployment reintegration among warriors of the Iraq and Afghanistan Conflicts

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Kelli Elizabeth Scanlon (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
L. DiAnne Borders

Abstract: The impact of service-related trauma on those returning from deployment remains a considerable issue among United States service members. While some veterans experience few to no setbacks upon homecoming, many service members struggle to reintegrate into their stateside lives, families, and communities following deployment. Little is yet understood about how veterans utilize social support to process trauma, the impact of trauma on service members’ abilities to access the support available to them, and whether social support may help soldiers with trauma to reintegrate into civilian communities with greater success. The purpose of this study is to add to the body of literature concerning service members’ experiences of trauma, social support, and postdeployment reintegration. Over the past five years, the Veterans Administration has observed a 35% increase in the number of service members receiving mental health care. Moreover, completed suicides among service members are at an all-time high, with more service member lives lost to suicide than to combat in recent years (Blumenthal, Maliha, & Mathews, 2012; Donnelly, 2011; Pilkington, 2013). Much is now known about the risk and resiliency factors that contribute to a service member’s ability to metabolize service-related trauma and reintegrate stateside. Yet, despite the resources devoted to studying these influences and the increased utilization of mental health services, outcomes for many returning veterans continue to be bleak. As the drawdown of OIF/OEF/OND troops continues and the potential deployment of ground troops to combat ISIS/ISIL looms, the demand for a comprehensive understanding of the unique needs of those service members experiencing reintegration difficulties can be expected to increase. Since stigma surrounding mental health treatment remains high among military service members (Johnson & Faller, 2011; Zoroya, 2010), many veterans will remain untreated for months, or even years, before life becomes uncomfortable or unmanageable enough to press them into treatment (Hoge et al., 2004). Civilian and military counselors, social workers, clergymen, public health educators, psychologists, psychiatrists, and service members themselves need to be better informed about the manifestations of combat-related trauma, the influence of social support on trauma symptomology, and the potential role of social support in ameliorating trauma response and facilitating service member reintegration. Mental health workers with a deeper knowledge of how trauma and social support interact to inform postdeployment experiences will be better suited to facilitate stateside transitions in service members. Accordingly, a Web-based assessment was deployed to examine the relationships among the variables of service-related trauma, postdeployment social support, and reintegration in a sample of veterans of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The purpose of this study was to add to the body of literature concerning the homecoming experiences of present day warriors and increase practitioners’ understanding of the role of social support in stateside reintegration for service members with trauma.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2016
Military, Reintegration, Social support, Suicide, Trauma
Iraq War, 2003-2011 $x Veterans $x Mental health $z United States
Afghan War, 2001- $x Veterans $x Mental health $z United States
Veterans $x Mental health $z United States
Veterans $x Suicidal behavior $z United States
Veterans $x Social networks $z United States
Veteran reintegration $z United States
Post-traumatic stress disorder $z United States
Psychic trauma $z United States

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