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Doubts over resilience interventions

Wednesday December 19th, 2018

Managers often hope that resilience training will improve staff morale in stressed environments – but researchers today question its effectiveness.

A new study has found that a resilience-based intervention for UK military recruits seemed to be ineffective.

The intervention they looked at is currently used in the UK Royal Air Force to bolster mental health and wellbeing. It is called SPEAR and focuses on participating in Social networks, capitalising on Personal strengths and weaknesses, managing Emotions, enhancing Awareness of psychological symptoms, and learning techniques to promote Resilience.

Dr Norman Jones, at the Academic Department of Military Mental Health in King’s College London, UK, and colleagues randomly allocated teams of RAF trainees to receive SPEAR or usual training.

A total of 707 recruits participated. They were tested before and after the nine-week training, and three months later, for post-traumatic stress disorder, common mental disorder symptoms, alcohol use, homesickness and mental health stigmatisation. They were also tested after the training for help-seeking, cohesion, leadership and training impact.

Analysis showed no significant differences between groups at any point. Full results are published today (19 December) in Occupational & Environmental Medicine.

The groups had similar perceptions of their military leaders and their unit’s cohesion: both were rated highly. The researchers suggest that this might be the reason for the lack of benefit from SPEAR. They explain that effective leadership is known to be supportive of mental health, and cohesion is linked to openness and less mental health stigmatisation.

They conclude that they found "no evidence that resilience based training had any specific benefit to the health and well-being of UK military recruits".

Rather than search for a 'silver bullet' intervention to improve mental health, they suggest that "time might be better spent refining leadership and building strong cohesion".

Jones, N. et al. Resilience-based intervention for UK military recruits: a randomised controlled trial. Occupational & Environmental Medicine 19 December 2018 doi: 10.1136/oemed-2018-105503

Tags: Mental Health | UK News

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