Friday, 25 September 2009

The real casualties of war

They have been holding a conference at the war Memorial in Canberra this week on the treatment of soldiers coming home from wars and our local ABC has featured interviews with some of the participants. Some really heart-wrenching stories of the ways that suffering so often continues for years after the battlefield is left behind. But nothing so starkly shocking as the report in The Guardian this morning of how in the United Kingdom the number of former servicemen in prison or on probation or parole is now more than double the total British deployment in Afghanistan.

The study by the probation officers’ union Napo uncovers the horrid hidden cost of recent conflicts. The Guardian reports:
The snapshot survey of 90 probation case histories of convicted veterans shows a majority with chronic alcohol or drug problems and nearly half suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or depression as a result of their wartime experiences on active service.
Those involved had served in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan. They are most likely to have been convicted of a violent offence, particularly domestic violence.
The study provides the strongest evidence yet of a direct link between the mental health of those returning from combat zones, chronic alcohol and drug abuse and domestic violence.
In many cases the symptoms of depression or stress did not become apparent for many years and included persistent flashbacks and nightmares.
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