Facing Adversity and Factors Affecting Resilience: A Qualitative Analysis of the Lived Experiences of Canadian Special Operations Forces

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Richer I, Frank C 20(4). 60 - 67 (Journal Article)

Special Operations Forces (SOF) personnel are required to withstand considerable physical and psychological hardship. Research examining resilience and mental health among SOF personnel is limited and has provided mixed results; in addition, minimal research has been undertaken on the subjective experiences of adversity and the process of resilience among SOF personnel. This unique qualitative study describes the lived experience of Canadian SOF personnel, the challenges they face, and the factors they believe impact their resilience. Seventy Canadian SOF personnel participated in in-depth, semistructured interviews. A thematic analysis of the interviews revealed that operational demands, paired with an organizational culture of performance, were important stressors for most participants, negatively affecting both themselves and their families. SOF organizations select members with resilient characteristics; however, the same characteristics that make these members resilient also lead to self-imposed pressure to perform and avoid taking time for proper recovery. Team members were reported to help such members process difficult or traumatic experiences and facilitate their seeking care. Findings provide insight into the adverse experiences that participants encountered while serving in an SOF organization and the intertwined individual, social, and organizational factors affecting their resilience. Results point to the importance of managing and mitigating the impact of high operational tempo and a culture of performance to protect the health and wellness of SOF personnel and their families

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