July 2017

24th – 30th July

Research Highlights a Possible Novel Pathway to Treat PTSD

Researchers from the VA National Centre for PTSD (NCPTSD), National PTSD Brain Bank and Yale University have collaborated on a study that has analysed molecular changes in post-mortem brains of individuals who had suffered from PTSD. Since there are currently limited pharmacotherapies for PTSD, the identification of molecular abnormalities in PTSD can provide an important platform for future developments. Glutamate, an essential chemical messenger in the brain, has previously been implicated in PTSD pathophysiology. It is important that a balance of glutamatergic activity is maintained for correct neural functioning. Results of the study demonstrated abnormal changes to glutamate signalling; more specifically brain scans revealed increased levels of a protein involved in the glutamatergic system, called metabotropic glutamate receptor-5 (mGluR5). MGluR5 is a receptor that, when activated by glutamate, produces a cascade of responses many of which may be crucial in the abnormalities contributing to PTSD. The finding that mGluR5 is upregulated in PTSD brains provides a specific mechanism by which pharmaceuticals can target the neural imbalances evident in the disorder. By lowering the level of mGluR5 this will theoretically help reduce PTSD symptomology. More research will be essential in following up whether mGluR5 could be an important target for effective treatment of PTSD.

The report can be accessed here.


17th – 23rd July

Alcohol Use in UK Armed Forces

KCMHR

UK military personnel have a higher level of alcohol misuse to the general public. This has previously been attributable to factors such as mental health, childhood adversity and deployment. Researchers at King’s College University investigated the long-term alcohol consumption in a UK military population and determined whether drinking behaviour was associated with mental health, deployment and/or childhood adversity. The results of the study showed that those individuals who were classified as heavy drinkers (comprising a fifth of all participants) were more likely to have been deployed to Iraq than the other groups (abstainers, low-level drinkers, decreasing drinkers and average drinkers). They also found that the abstainers and heavy drinkers were the individuals most likely to report symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Across the eight-year study, drinking patterns tended to remain consistent, indicating that there is a need to provide programmes that intervene with heavy drinkers in order to encourage a healthier lifestyle.

The study was recently published in Addictive Behaviours and can be accessed here.


A Pilot Programme has been developed by Combat Stress to Support the Partners of Veterans with PTSD

combat stress logo

Research conducted by Combat Stress showed that out of 100 female partners of veterans, 45% had alcohol issues and 17% had posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. A subsequent study interviewed eight female partners of veterans with PTSD and found that feelings of relationship inequality, loss of identity, volatile environment and emotional stress were present. A pilot programme has been developed to support partners of veterans with PTSD and to help them understand their own needs and to tackle emotional stress.

More information can be found at here.


10th – 16th July 2017

Group vs. Individual CPT for PTSD in Active Duty Military Personnel

A recent article published by Resick et al. (2017), in the Journal of the American Medical Association, compares group and individual cognitive-processing therapy (CPT) for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in active duty military personnel. CPT is a trauma-focused cognitive therapy that has previously shown to be efficacious in treating both civilian and veteran PTSD. CPT was initially developed as a group therapy but currently there is contradicting data as to whether it is more successful when delivered in a group or in one-to-one therapy. Additionally, little research has been undertaken for helping PTSD in active duty military personnel. The present study recruited 268 US army veterans who were seeking treatment for PTSD after deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan. The results showed that both group and individual CPT produced significant decreases in PTSD symptoms over time but that those patients randomised to individual CPT demonstrated approximately twice the improvement in PTSD compared to those in the group CPT. Significant reductions were maintained at 6 months follow up, however, it should be noted that, similarly to the current consensus in the literature, a considerable proportion of the sample did not respond to CPT, contributing to the conclusion that PTSD is a complex disorder and one that is difficult to treat with current therapies.

The published article can be accessed here.


Call to Mind UK Report

 FiMT

The Call to Mind Report, funded by the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT), has recently been published. It is the first report to provide a UK-wide summary of the mental and related health and social care needs of veterans and their family members and the provision of support services. The four points identified as areas that could be improved upon were:

  • Strategy, planning and assessment
  • Care pathways and service responses
  • Meeting specific mental and related health and social care needs
  • The needs of veterans’ families.

In more detail, the report highlights that there are poor identification rates of veterans and their family members in primary care and veterans and their families are reluctant or lacking in confidence when it comes to being identified as veterans in health services. Additionally, there is a great need for more links between national and local strategy and planning. The report will hopefully help to inform policy makers and service deliverers across the four nations in the UK in order to better serve veterans and their families.

The report can be downloaded here.


3rd – 9th July 2017

The extent of Gambling Problems in UK veterans

FiMT Swansea University

A new study, funded by the Forces in Mind Trust (FiMT), has been published from Swansea University, indicating that UK veterans are considerably more likely than non-veterans to develop gambling problems. This result was not explained by differences in mental health, financial situations or substance abuse but may rather be related to the increase in traumatic events experienced by veterans compared to non-veterans, or that veterans have a higher tendency to take risks. The conclusions gathered from the study indicate that there should be a greater allocation of resources towards helping identify and intervene with those veterans struggling with gambling problems.

The report can be downloaded here.


How operational deployment affects soldiers’ children

Leanne Simpson, a PhD candidate at Bangor University, has written and article looking at how deployment affects military families, particularly those with young children. This article has been written as part of a bigger PhD project into the neurocognitive underpinnings of Mental Robustness in military personnel funded by the British Ministry of Defence. The findings suggest that children of Service Personnel have significantly more mental health problems, including depression and anxiety, than their civilian counterparts. It has also been reported that mental health issues are especially high in military spouses raising young children during deployment. This article describes the five stages of the emotional cycle, often experienced by children during an extended deployment (6 months or longer): pre-deployment, deployment, sustainment, re-deployment and post-deployment. This emotional cycle also details the possible negative changes in child behaviour resulting from deployment. Leanne Simpson has co-authored a new study with Dr Rachel Pye, University of Reading, examining how UK military families with young children function during three of the five stages of this emotional cycle of deployment; this study will be published in Military Medicine soon.

To read this article in full, click here.

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