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War, Trauma And Survival Or Not!!


Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008 War, Trauma And Survival Or Not!!

There have been several articles related to our armed forces who are sent to war and come back suffering from the crippling Post Traumatic Stress (PTS).

Notwithstanding a BBC report by Caroline Wyatt (26 11 08) expresses the difficulties that these men and women. will face.

In particular the correspondent focus’s her report on one man who uses the pseudonym Ian, that in itself has it’s own connotations. Ian says “I started drinking, I started fighting and I was more aggressive - but I didn’t care. I couldn’t sleep, my chest felt tight, I felt sick - and then there were the flashbacks.

“I got diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder by my unit’s medical officer - and that was it.

“There was no treatment. And they still sent me to fight in Iraq.”

Ian firmly believes that many of our fighting soldiers are unwilling to come forward mainly due to the fact that their military careers would come to an end. He says that 16 of his colleagues who went out to Iraq, 4 were lost and a further 7 returned with some form of mental illness. More alarming is 10 who were married that has been reduced to 2. The implications are very serious indeed.

Unlike physical injury where support is acceptable, in respect of mental illness, this falls short of being adequate.Combat stress have been the force in helping Ian come to terms with his condition even though he still suffers the awful flashback syndrome. It will be relevant to identify how combat stress help their patients. Combat stress casualties are not a new problem, but the way combat stress is dealt with has changed profoundly in the last century.

In relation to shell shock now known as combat stress, was once regarded as a coward’s reaction to fighting. Moreover, men were actually killed by firing squad, and the few men who were diagnosed with combat fatigue were evacuated home often when it was too late for recovery. Many developed chronic psychiatric conditions.

Equally there has to be a sense of recognition that through the progression of time, there has been a shift towards improved attitudes in terms of combat stress. More significantly through education, greater media attention and 24 hour news.

Combat stress the charity carries it’s own warning with regards to the mental agility of it’s soldiers returning from Afghanistan in that 40 veterans are asking for assistance.

According to David Hill (director of operations) who states “We’ve seen some stark differences in the average length of time between people leaving the service and coming to Combat Stress for help,”

Indeed he argues, “It is usually around 14 years, but soldiers who’ve been serving in Afghanistan are coming to us much faster, around two years after being discharged, and at an earlier age, 32 as opposed to 43.”

From the point of view of early diagnosis with reference to consultant psychiatrist Dr Walter Busuttil, combat stress would be easier to treat, but as previously indicated there is a reluctance to come forward for reasons already stated so this will surely have a dire consequence for those in the greatest need of help.

Adrian Weale (British Armed Forces Federation) suggests stigma is also very much an issue surrounding these men/women coming forward for diagnosis. For soldiers, one could argue that they are in a catch 22 situation, which also suggests hopelessness.

The above argument is supported in another BBC report (Paul Burnell) where his headline states “Traumatised veterans’ fight for care”. This account goes on to describe the plight of Darren Wright. He, according to the article was destined for a highly successful military career. Instead he is serving an 11 year prison sentence for violent kidnap. Yet his family believe that a lack of effective care for his mental stability on his return from Afghanistan made him a criminal.

The Ministry Of Defence have said that there has been nearly 4,000 new cases of mental illness among forces personnel last year, with those sent to Afghanistan or Iraq most likely to be traumatised.

In the case of Wright, he would take gifts for the local Afghanistan children whilst on peace keeping duties. However, he became extremely distressed at having to move and bury the bodies of little children caught in the crossfire of battle.

It was these events that triggered nightmares and flashbacks. He also became delusional. Dr Dafydd Alun Jones, Consultant psychiatrist stated on Wright that “he should have had a medical discharge with onward reports to the NHS for further help,”

This was not the case and for Darren Wright his mental health worsened.

Surgeon Commander Neil Greenberg on post traumatic stress has said that numbers of incidence remain relatively low and attitudes have changed for the better. He also acknowledges that historically the armed forces had an issue with stigma, but that is becoming less prevalent now.

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