17 November 2011

Unseen wounds are no less real

Two new studies of Canadian soldiers who served in Afghanistan between 2001 and 2008 shows the prevalence of psychological casualties in modern combat operations.  The Globe and Mail reported that:

In one study of 792 frontline soldiers who fought in Afghanistan in 2007, some 20 per cent suffered from posttraumatic stress disorder, while 3.1 per cent suffered other mental illnesses such as depression.

In a larger national study, researchers examined medical records of 2,045 soldiers who served from 2001 to 2008 and found 8 per cent suffered from posttraumatic stress disorder and another 5.2 per cent suffered other mental-health illnesses over a follow-up period averaging five years. (Globe and Mail)

The studies also found that 98% of those experiencing symptoms had sought and received treatment. 

Things have changed radically since the first deployments to the former Yugoslavia almost 20 years ago.  But psychological casualties still turn up, even from older operations.  As the Globe story also noted:

“People are still coming forward from Chicoutimi and Swissair,” said Colonel Rakesh Jetly, head psychiatrist for the Canadian Forces. The Chicoutimi submarine fire killed one seaman in 2004, and the military was deeply involved in recovering bodies and wreckage after the 1998 Swissair crash.

- srbp -

Related:  Those interested in the history of the treatment of  psychological injuries in the Canadian Army can find a excellent account in Terry Copp and Bill McAndrew’s Battle exhaustion: soldiers and psychiatrists in the Canadian Army, 1939-1945.

Sadly, much of the experience gained in pioneering work done during the Second World War vanished in the years after only to be rediscovered – out of sheer necessity – since the end of the Cold War.