The psychological damage of warfare

September 18, 2012 12:00 am Published by Leave your thoughts

Hidden, somewhere between the valiant honour roll of current serving war ‘heroes’ and the ever-increasing list of post-humourous award receivers, lie the forgotten soldiers of old – surviving their campaigns and returning home. These casualties are the ones stricken and crippled by both physical and mental disabilities, resulting from their dedication and sacrifice to the protection of their families and their homeland. Lost in the bureaucracy of politics and idiocracy of greed, these soldiers remain forgotten and abandoned.

Since the federation of Australia in 1901, more than 100,000 young men have died, fighting to protect their country.

These glorified ‘heroes’ were placed in coffins draped in the Australian flag, and shipped home to their grieving mothers: as innocent young boys they left, and murdered, haggard, destroyed men they returned.

But the real victims here were those affected psychologically, their original personalities banished from their haggard bodies after returning home from yet another tour of duty – physically exhausted, mentally isolated, and publicly ostracised.

According to official government statistics, Veterans’ Affairs have granted 287 compensation claims in the last decade. This alone may not seem a lot, but considering the Australian Defence Force is made up of 3,300 deployed personnel, 287 represents nearly one tenth of the force…and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

For every one hundred veterans, three of them are homeless. These men were keenly and eagerly standing watch in the treacherous paranoia of midnight, in sub-zero mountainous terrain protecting our nation as we slept peacefully in our warm, cosy homes. Now these same brave men and women are sleeping rough out in the cold, humiliated and dejected.

Where is the justice?

For decades the government have deliberately hidden the real cost our soldiers are paying for our nation’s wars. Fearing the thought of a people’s backlash, the government have concealed the real statistics from the public, encouraging the ‘idiocratic’ ideals of patriotism, and searching for new avenues of revenue and morale raising.

Where is the truth?

A recent study investigating the rates of psychological damage amongst Combat Forces, was conducted by the UK Ministry of Defence ‘DASA’ unit. This quarterly survey found three interesting regular occurrences within the psycho-analysed results. The findings state:

— Rates for Army & RAF personal were significantly (p.<0.05) higher than for Royal Navy (inc. Royal Marine Commandos);

— Rates for other ranks were significantly higher than that for Officers;

— Rates for females were significantly higher than that of males.

What wasn’t included in the study however, were precise figures of mentally ill ex-servicemen and women across Britain. All such statistics and information, are hidden from the public domain, and stashed under the suede-leather couch of a politician; terrified of the consequences and his own job security, should such revealing figures get out. A report commissioned in April 2009 by General Sir Richard Dannatt, concluded that “there were no accurate figures for seriously wounded [including psychologically damaged] personnel,” further stating “It has long been agreed that the sickness absence management figures are inaccurate.”

How convenient.

Whilst various psychological ‘programmes’ have been established by Defence Forces worldwide in an effort to combat the growing social resentment for buck-passing governments, very few, such as the Braveheart programme, are successful in diagnosing, dealing, or healing psychological damage in veterans and soldiers, some, only as young as 18.

A study conducted in March 2007, revealed some astonishing figures. The study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, revealed one third of returning veterans were diagnosed with a mental illness or psycho-social disorder – such as homelessness and marital problems, including domestic violence. Over half were diagnosed with more than one disorder; the median was three.

Dr. Karen Seal at the San Francisco Veterans’ Affairs Medical Centre and the University of California, explained saying “So instead of treating just post-traumatic stress disorder, you’re treating PTSD, depression and substance abuse.” The most common combination, she says, was PTSD and depression. “That’s understandable,” says Seal, because soldiers face horrifying events in combat that lead to PTSD while experiencing”a lot of loss and separation that leads to depression.”

Further figures indicate 13 per-cent of studied veterans, suffered Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The sub-set with the highest rate of mental problems studied, were those between 18 and 24. The study concluded that young active-duty soldiers were three times more likely to be diagnosed with a mental disorder such as PTSD, than those over 40.

Where to from here?

Many psychologists suggest a greater presence and facilitation of psycho-analysis and monitoring of affected veterans, to ensure such psychological disorders do not become chronic. This, coupled with a reduction in the stigma of mental health issues, especially prevalent amongst war veterans, are just some of the recommendations made.

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This post was written by Finn Bowen

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