27 May 2015

Troops lack 'psychological armour' - study

11:05 am on 27 May 2015

A survey of Australian army troops suggests few of its soldiers have the high level of mental resilience needed to fully deal with combat.

Australian soldiers in Iraq as part of  Operation Okra.

About 600 members of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) have been sent to Iraq to help fight Islamic State. Photo: Australian Defence Force

Researchers from Southern Cross University and Griffith University surveyed more than 95 soldiers and 21 supervisors in a study funded by Army Research Australia.

The study assessed participants' "psychological capital", made up of self-confidence, optimism, hope and resilience to continue a task despite problems.

Southern Cross University's Yvonne Brunetto said the results suggested young men and women were being sent into combat without proper preparation.

Professor Brunetto said 80 percent had some level of resilience and, of them, fewer than a handful were deemed to have a high level of resilience.

"They have a mechanism, a mental mechanism, and so it doesn't cause the longer term stress that happens in those people with low psychological capital," she said.

The study found 20 percent had no resilience.

"[The Australian Defence Force] wouldn't send soldiers to a war-torn area without appropriate weaponry," Professor Brunetto said.

"Therefore, they shouldn't be sending them without appropriate psychological armour."

The research also found more than one in 10 soldiers came back from a deployment with some sort of mental scarring that also decreased their capacity to be resilient.

The research found a direct correlation between mental resilience and ability to handle stress.

The study, which began last year, will be handed to the army.