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Some Soldiers Face New Battles With Their Demons - When The Terror Doesn't End

Discussion in 'News, Politics & Debates' started by goingonhope, Jul 23, 2007.

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  1. goingonhope

    goingonhope Member Premium Member

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    When The Terror Doesn't End

    Some Canadian soldiers returning from duty in Afghanistan face new battles with their demons.

    By Alison Auld, CP

    July 23, 2007

    About once a week, David would quietly leave his office, drive a half hour away and change out of his uniform before sitting down with a doctor for a regular appointment.

    For months, the young soldier ventured far from his military base in Edmonton to seek help for a problem that had robbed him of his sense of humour and left him haunted by memories of comrades' bodies being loaded into helicopters in the deserts of Afghanistan.

    It was a hassle, but it was the only way he felt he could get the treatment he needed without facing repercussions from a military he and others say is failing soldiers traumatized by the rigours of war.

    "They've made it impossible," David, who insisted on using a pseudonym, said in an interview from his Edmonton home.

    "I had to drop my treatment because I couldn't get the time off from work and I was embarrassed to tell the people I work with."

    Some of our returning soldiers will suffer from what the medical community benignly refers to as "operational stress injuries" - a range of afflictions that includes alcoholism, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

    Numbers obtained by The Canadian Press show that of 1,300 Forces members who served in Afghanistan since 2005 and underwent a post-deployment screening, 28% had symptoms suggestive of one or more mental health problems.

    Of those, 16% showed signs of high-risk drinking and just over six per cent were possibly suffering from PTSD. Five per cent showed symptoms of major depression.

    Dr. Mark Zamorski of the deployment health section of the Canadian Forces says PTSD is a complicated disorder characterized by "the intrusive re-experiencing of a traumatic event."

    The military says all soldiers who have been away for more than 60 days have to complete a detailed questionnaire that can indicate if they might have an operational stress injury. If they are found to be in need of help, Zamorski says they can take advantage of various resources.

    There is a new anonymous toll-free number staffed by health practitioners, specialized operational stress injury clinics, and trauma and stress support centres on bases across the country.

    But only a fraction of redeployed troops have completed the questionnaire or undergone the interview.

    Out of about 4,800 people who had returned from Afghanistan and were required to have the screening, 2,900 were still due for it and only 1,257 had completed the questionnaire.

    But some soldiers praise the military for finally improving a system that has been widely criticized for its neglect of soldiers' welfare.

    When Cpl. Will Salikin returned to Canada from Afghanistan after his deployment last July he was in a drug-induced coma with massive head injuries, a host of other health problems and only sketchy memories of the moments before a bomb hurled him through the air.

    "Before my accident, I was a pretty laid-back person. Now I will fly off the handle for absolutely no reason whatsoever," he said in an interview.

    Salikin, who was with the 3rd Battalion Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, finally sought help last September when he went to a psychiatrist on the base.

    He ended up seeing a psychiatrist about twice a week to work on issues his doctor says could be linked to PTSD or another stress injury. Salikin, who has shifted to headquarters for a desk job, said the quality of military care rivals civilian services.

    A directive contained in a recent Defence Department briefing note states that due to the effect of operational stress injuries, "all unit commanding officers will assume a pro-active role in promoting a culture of support, understanding and caring towards injured personnel."

    Zamorski said the higher profile of mental health issues and treatment options are helping reduce the stigma, but some soldiers don't believe it will ever be done away with entirely.

    "We've come a long way, but we're still a bunch of guys in the army," said David, who's reconsidering his future in the Forces. "It's half our fault too. I was just too proud to go. We do have avenues, we just got to start taking them."


    PTSD DEFINITION AND SYMPTOMS'
    Symptoms: Irritability, anger, guilt, grief or sadness, emotional numbing, helplessness, loss of pleasure derived from familiar activities, difficulty feeling happy, difficulty experiencing loving feelings, fatigue, insomnia, vulnerability to illness.

    Definition: PTSD is described as a complicated disorder characterized by the intrusive re-experiencing of a traumatic event, such as rape, warfare or the threat of physical harm. That can be in the form of nightmares, flashbacks and vivid memories, all of which can lead to problems sleeping, expressing emotion and avoidance of situations that remind sufferers of the traumatic event.

    Source: SunNews, Canada
     
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