Towards the development of a standardized appraisal tool for the therapeutic recreation stress management intervention model for military staff in a South African context
The job demands of naval members are such that they experience high levels of stress. Stress is often introduced during military training so that real-world stress is more familiar and easy to mitigate. This is often referred to as “train how you fight”. In order to train a stressful task, a stressful environment is often created in the military. The aim of the study was to develop a standardised appraisal tool for the Therapeutic Recreation Stress Management Intervention Model measuring stress, stress coping and leisure behaviour of military staff in the South African context. This study utilised a qualitative research design and followed a multi stage procedure in developing the appraisal tool while making use of the model of instrument development to achieve the aim. The model identified four stages of instrument development: Phase 1, preliminary phase; Phase 2, questionnaire development, Phase 3 pilot testing, Phase 4 Evaluation phase. For the purpose and scope of this study, the researcher focused on phases 1 and 2. Phase 1, the Preliminary phase focused on the translation of the study needs into variables, current literature, interviews and focus group discussions. Three focus groups comprised of eight participants per group and were purposefully selected from military naval staff. In addition, semi-structured interview guides were used for interviews conducted with key informants. Five senior officers and two psychologists from the Institute of Maritime Medicine (IMM) were interviewed. Data was analysed deductively due to the existence of pre-determined themes. In Phase 2, based on the data collected in phase 1, the researcher developed the appraisal tool. The appraisal tool was constructed within the scope of the theoretical framework focusing on the perceptions of naval staff on stress; previous and current leisure experiences; knowledge, skills, resources, behaviour; leisure-coping beliefs; and stress- coping strategies. The literature in the present study revealed that there were six pre-determined themes. The themes included: Theme 1 – Stressors in the military, Theme 2 –support in the military, Theme 3- operational deployment of military members, Theme 4- Impact of stress on military families have been identified as theme four, Theme 5- leadership and Theme 6- sport and recreation in the military. Salient topics included the following: Stress assessment salient topics are personal stress, occupational stress, wellness and operational deployment. Leisure behaviour salient topics include social activities, passive activities, physical activities and outdoor activities. The findings in the study revealed that stress had an adverse effect on military readiness and the wellbeing of staff. This study reiterated the need for greater attention in the rendering of support services needed to military members and their families, preparing families for separation and improved communication between deployed soldiers and the home front. Job-induced separations affect not only the soldier and the spouse, but also their children. The role of the supervisor played a large part in how satisfied and committed the members were regarding their job. Sport and Recreation programs are vital to alleviate the symptoms of stress. The appraisal tool developed needs to be piloted and evaluated in order to recommend it for use in SANDF information systems.