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Public support can influence soldiers' mental health: Study
Date:4/5/2013

He says that when there is no clear or rational reason for a country to go to war, the resulting protests over military involvement can act as a catalyst in the minds of returning soldiers and veterans over their role in an action their country sees as unjust or even immoral. Though the act of taking another life in combat can be in some ways rationalized as necessary for the good of one's country, when that country's citizens openly manifest their rejection of the war, the soldiers' perception that their actions were out of line with social reality, and thus immoral, may become detrimental to their mental health.

"Soldiers, while they're in the military, may believe that killing is the right thing to do. But maybe when they return home and see the culture and the country is not as supportive as they thought it once was, it makes it more distressing," he says.

Combatants risk more than lives

Webber says leaders need to act wisely and judiciously when deciding to go to war with other countries. Although soldiers accept the inherent risks involved with their careers, there is no training given that will help them face the backlash of public opinion against their role in the government's choice to do battle. Even though the country may support the soldiers, and may sign petitions and stage demonstrations with the intent of bringing them back home safely, Webber says being caught between duty and public opinion can be a painful experience.

Webber acknowledges that there is not necessarily an ideal prescription for when to go to war, but he says for the sake of the troops' mental health, signing that declaration needs to be done with the utmost thought and care.

"When decisions are made to go to war, they should be based less on fear and insecurity and more in hard realities, such as if the country has been attacked," said Webber. "If the decisions are undertaken with good reason, with legitimate evidence behind them,
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Contact: Jamie Hanlon
jamie.hanlon@ualberta.ca
780-492-9214
University of Alberta
Source:Eurekalert

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