Little is known about the mental health of civilian contractors following their work to support our troops.  So much has been said about the long lasting effects of combat on our military personnel. There is now a big push to get our troops the help they need when they return from active service with PTSD, alcohol abuse and depression.

We also need to think about the mental health of civilian contractors after they have been supporting U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan and Iraq for the past decade.  These military contractors have also been assisting foreign governments, other organizations and private businesses. Alongside our military they have been providing critical services such as:

  • Base support and maintenance
  • Logistical support
  • Transportation
  • Intelligence
  • Communications
  • Construction
  • Security

Defense base contractors do not participate directly in combat. However, they are exposed to many of the same stressors as those who are fighting. Because there have been so many contractors sent to these combat theaters, even at one time outnumbering U.S. troops, the RAND Corporation conducted an online survey to find out about the physical and mental health of civilian contractors after they return home.

Military contractors who had been deployed to an area of conflict at least one time between early 2011 and early 2013 participated in this survey on the mental health of civilian contractors.

The survey collected the following information:

  • Demographic and employment information
  • Details regarding deployment experience
  • Level of preparation for deployment
  • Exposure to combat
  • Living conditions
  • Mental health
  • Probable Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
  • Depression
  • Alcohol misuse
  • Physical health
  • Access to and use of health care

The purpose of the survey was to define the contractors’ level of health and well-being as well as to explore the differences between the survey takers in terms of country of citizenship, job specialty, and length and frequency of deployment.

Results of Survey on Mental Health of Civilian Contractors

After Deployment Contractors Are Effected both Mentally and Physically

  • One fourth of contractors met criteria for PTSD
  • 18% suffered from depression
  • Half reported misusing alcohol or problem drinking

Those deployed for longer periods of time with more exposure to combat had higher rates of PTSD and depression.

Those who had prepared more thoroughly for their deployment were associated with lower rates of probable PTSD and depression.

The majority of respondents reported that they were in “excellent health” or “very good health”.  But there were subsets of respondents who reported physical health problems:

  • U.S. contractors
  • Transportation contractors
  • Those whose contracts were funded by the U.S. Dept. of Defense or State
  • Those with more exposure to combat

Despite Adverse Effects on the Mental Health of Civilian Contractors, Most Not Receiving Mental Health Treatment

  • Most contractors had health insurance at the time they took the survey, but there were differences in coverage depending on their country of citizenship.
  • U.S. contractors were more likely NOT to have health insurance.
  • There is a significant need for mental heath treatment for U.S. Contractors that are not being met.

For example, only 28% of those with probable PTSD were receiving mental health treatment and only 34% of those with probable depression were receiving mental health treatment.  This means that the majority of contractors who are experiencing PTSD and depression were not receiving the treatment they need.  Barriers to receiving treatment for mental health issues in the wake of contract deployment were cost, embarrassment and concerns about being perceived by others as weak.


Because our treatment for depression and anxiety programs rely on evidence based practices, our Intensive Outpatient Program shares many common methods with other successful treatment methods.  The foundation of our treatment program for relies on the principles of the stages of change, cognitive behavioral therapy, solution focused treatment, skills training and identifying repetitive dysfunctional behavioral relationship patterns to promote recovery from depression and other mental health disorders.  In fact, our Intensive Outpatient Program in Memphis, TN that has been proven to be effective in the treatment of these disorders in six peer reviewed treatment outcome studies.  Unfortunately, in Tennessee, less half of all individuals with any mental illness in Tennessee will receive mental health treatment.

Our treatment center provides services to those who need more treatment than one hour a week, but less than 24 hour care, by providing three hours of treatment per day, three to five days per week, in an intensive outpatient setting. It is also important to keep in mind that women and men often experience depression differently and therefore the presence of depression may also appear differently based on gender. If you or a loved one is showing signs of depression or anxiety, including PTSD, they should be assessed by a trained mental health professional who can help design a treatment plan for depression that can result in recovery.  Treatment for depression and anxiety can be highly successful.  People who have completed our program have provide very high consumer satisfaction scores and reviewsCall us at 901-682-6136 to schedule an appointment.