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J R Army Med Corps. 2007;153 Suppl 1:58-61; discussion 62.

Rate of British psychiatric combat casualties compared to recent American wars.

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8th Infantry Division (Mechanised), US Army, Europe.


This paper examines factors leading to the low rate of combat psychiatric casualties in the British recapture of the Falklands compared to the American experience in North Africa, Italy, Europe and South Pacific theatres during World War II, the Korean Conflict and Vietnam. The factors compared are those thought to affect rates seen in these past wars. The factors highlighted are psychiatric screening of evacuees, presence of psychiatric personnel in line units, intensity of combat and use of elite units. Factors also mentioned are presence of possible occult psychiatric casualties such as frostbite and malaria, amount of indirect fire and the offensive or defensive nature of the combat. A unique aspect of the Falklands War examined is the exclusive use of hospital ships to treat psychiatric casualties and the impact of the Geneva Convention rules regarding hospital ships on the classic treatment principles of proximity and expectancy. The types and numbers of various diagnoses are also presented. The British Campaign in the Falklands produced a remarkably low rate of psychiatric casualties. When viewed in light of American experience in recent wars, this low rate represents a concentration of optimal factors leading to healthy function in combat. The results of this war should not be used to predict a similar outcome in future combat as this particular constellation of factors may not recur.

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