Military drone controllers may benefit from mindfulness

When we think of soldiers in the military suffering from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), we tend to think of battle weary soldiers who have been on the front line, but there has been a recent surge of interest in the fact that drone operators, taking part in a war thousands of miles away, still suffer from PTSD.

Peter Gray, a lecturer at Birmingham University, an aviation expert and ex-RAF navigator, has recently spoken about the issue, and claims that drone controllers are just as, or even more so, likely to suffer from PTSD than regular aircrew.

“They follow the pattern of life in a target environment, and they get so used to that, living day in, day out with these people, that when an attack has to be made, they feel it every bit as much as a pilot of a fast jet who just drops the bomb,” said Gray.

PTSD is most commonly seen in people who have experienced war, but the disorder is not specific to this group of people, and can occur in those who have no connection to the military at all.

Anyone who has suffered an extreme shock or trauma in their life, be it from battle, controlling drones, or something such as a car accident or abuse as a child, can be affected by PTSD. It was a long misunderstood condition, often interpreted as cowardice, but now we have a better understanding of it as a mental health condition.

It is a terrible condition which can prolong the suffering derived from a traumatic experience with nightmares and flashbacks.

A study by Dr David J. Kearney et al. “found that veterans who took part in [mindfulness-based stress reduction] experienced significant improvements in measures of mental health, including measures of PTSD, depression, experiential avoidance, and behavioural activation.”

Mindfulness is a very effective stress management technique, and can help improve the mental health of those who have suffered in the past, as well as those strained in the present.

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