A Massey University School of Psychology assessment of the well-being of personnel and their families – deployed from 2009 to 2013 – found the support systems allowed for some to slip through the cracks.
The research recommended purpose-built deployment support, development of internal clinical psychology and additional training of leaders.
Former infantry officer and Massey Centre for Defence and Security Studies senior lecturer Nick Nelson says the culture’s laidback attitude could be at the heart of the problem.
“I think part of it is that Kiwi ‘she’ll be right’ attitude, that they just need to harden up and get on with things, both the deployed people and their families.”
The military community has high expectations for support, Nelson says.
But these are rarely met by Defence for a variety of reasons.
“I don’t necessarily believe that the New Zealand Defence Force have structured the back end to be able to provide the support when particularly large contingents deploy.”
The formal support organisations within Defence genuinely believe they are doing the right thing and in many respects that is true, he says.
“What we found, though, is a disconnect between what they say they are doing and what is actually being provided to the families and deployed people. “There is a huge disconnect there that needs marrying up and finding out what the problem is because, overwhelmingly, the majority of people and their families say they never hear from anyone.”
Since the Iraq contingent deployed, Defence has launched a new family support initiative called “Force 4 Families”, its goal to improve communication with families, particularly with partners and whanau, to build a stronger sense of community.
A press release at its launch announced an online information hub and a new discount card, driven by a team of volunteers made up of Defence Force partners.
However, Defence public affairs says there is no an appropriate spokesperson available to speak about the initiative or its resources.