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Women's stress in compulsory army service in Israel: A gendered perspective


BACKGROUND: A growing number of women are serving in the military in a variety of roles, yet information on their experience of stressors not associated with either combat or sexual harassment is not commonly reported.

OBJECTIVE: To present phenomenological data on stressors experienced in military service, together with the use of coping strategies as a way to focus on women's mental needs following deployment from service.

METHODS: Twenty women who had recently completed their compulsory army service in Israel drew a picture expressing stressors they experienced in the army. They analyzed their own pictures on three levels: the content, context, and the composition as expressing stress and the resources they used in coping with stress.

RESULTS: Six themes were raised: proximity to war situations, coping with accidents in training soldiers under their command, a conflict between political values and military orders, witnessing the injury of another female soldier, responsibility for accidental injury of a civilian, and distress over the army placement.

CONCLUSIONS: Coping resources were relational, primarily family and friend support, rather than from the army framework. This reliance on relational sources of support was both a resource and a source of vulnerability and is viewed as distinct from men's style of coping.