The psychological health of remote area medics in Iraq
Whittaker-Howe S., Brown G., Williamson V., Greenberg N.
© The Author(s) 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society of Occupational Medicine. All rights reserved. Background Remote area medics (RAMs) may be at increased risk of mental health difficulties. Aims To explore the occupational experiences of RAMs to identify stressors and the mental health impact. Methods Semi-structured interviews were conducted with six RAMs working in Iraq to gather data, which was explored using interpretative phenomenological analysis. Results Three key themes emerged from the data (i) the experience of being remote, (ii) cultural shock and (iii) social support. A number of key stressors were identified, including loneliness and boredom, associated with being remote, and the loss of professional identity due to the occupational role. Three out of the six participants reported substantial depressive symptoms. A number of positive coping strategies were identified, particularly relationships with other RAMs, via instant messaging forums. Conclusions: RAMs experience a number of particular stressors that could put them at risk of depression. Adaptive coping strategies were identified; in particular, virtual social support. These findings should be of interest to companies which employ RAMs.