Suggestions for military personnel deployed in operations during the emergency
Military personnel who deal with emergency situations, even though well trained and used to managing stress, can also experience very strong cognitive, emotional, and behavioural reactions. Concern, anxiety, or fear for your own health and that of your loved ones ("What if I get the virus?” and “if I were to infect someone?") are legitimate reactions which, if excessive and pervasive, can compromise attention, concentration, and memory and, more widely, operational efficiency. For this reason it is important to reduce them by adopting suitable strategies, such as: questioning irrational beliefs (e.g. "I will definitely get sick!"), self-limiting the time spent mulling over the same negative thoughts and focus on the "here and now". You or others may feel angry. It is useful to understand that this sometimes happens because you feel powerless when faced by the situation and you need to find a culprit at all costs against which you can direct your frustration and sadness at what is happening. Others may have the sensation of "not feeling". In this case, it is likely that they are unconsciously activating a "protection" mechanism to successfully manage the operational requirements of the moment with clarity. It is possible though, to suffer "emotional backlash" (e.g. anxiety peaks) in unexpected moments. It is not unusual to feel confused and disoriented because of conflicting information, orders and counter-orders that follow each other quickly due to instability. Once the operation is over, a soldier may experience feeling more irritable than usual, needing to isolate themselves, feeling unmotivated by the idea of going back to work, trouble sleeping, changes in eating habits, feeling misunderstood or confused and becoming more easily distracted.
In any case it is important to:
Recognize that the work you are doing is useful, important, and fundamental to overcoming the pandemic.
Appreciate what you learn on a daily basis because it is an important part of your professional growth.
Never be ashamed of what you feel and don't judge yourself: some reactions are perfectly normal when going through unusual experiences.
Absolutely avoid hiding in thoughts like: “I won't say anything, so others won’t worry".
Seek support from colleagues, superiors, family members, and your network of friends: those who know how to open up, confide in, and ask for help are more likely to overcome a moment of difficulty in a shorter time.
Listen and never diminish other’s feelings when they confide in you for help, (for example by saying "It's nothing, it will pass, there are more serious problems!").
Don't focus on "Why did this happen?", But focus on "How can I overcome this situation? What are the resources I have available? ".
Talk to an expert if you feel overcome by negative emotions and thoughts.
The Psychological Officer can carry out individual consultations either following a spontaneous request by a soldier, or a recommendation by the Director of the Medical Service (DSS). Individual psychological counselling consists of a limited number of interviews with an expert aimed at understanding the dynamics that led to the current emotional discomfort, in order to facilitate the management of the same and to achieve a greater degree of well-being. For further information on the issue of psychological well-being, questions or requests for advice, do not hesitate to contact the Psychology Officers of reference for your barracks.