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Afghan War Veterans Sent Home with High Rates of Mental Disorders, including PTSD


A recent review of medical records has revealed that a significant percentage of Canadian soldiers returning from the war in Afghanistan have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Significant numbers are also coming back with other mental disorders such as depression.

During the past 12 years of war in Afghanistan, more than 40,000 members of the Canadian armed forces went to battle. In the aftermath, significant research has been done on mental health problems found in the soldiers returning from battle.

Of the mental disorders discovered in homecoming veterans, PTSD was the most prevalent, followed by depression. Interestingly, clinicians also examined whether depression or other mental disorders were related to Afghanistan or not—an additional 5.5 percent were found to suffer from a mental disorder unrelated to the war (CBC News).

David Boulos and Dr. Mark Zamorski, directorate of mental health at the Canadian Forces Health Services Group Headquarters concluded that “[a]n important minority of Canadian Forces personnel received a diagnosis of a mental disorder related to deployment in support of the Afghanistan mission.” It was also noted that during the review of records several independent risk factors were identified including deployment to higher-threat locations, service in the arm and lower rank (CBC).

Additional research revealed that the intensity and strength of the trauma experienced is the best predicator for PTSD.

Major Paul Sedge, a Canadian military psychiatrist who has worked at Canadian operational trauma and stress support centers has expressed concern for the veterans suffering from mental illness. Although large numbers come forward seeking help, it is feared that many more delay seeking help or never get help at all, due to the stigma attached. Traumatized veterans are urged to come forward as soon as possible because the longer they wait the harder it is to treat the illness (CBC). Those who deal with PTSD tend to cope as best they can until the symptoms begin to disrupt their ability to function.

Symptoms of PTSD are generally grouped into three categories: intrusive memories, avoidance and numbing, and increased anxiety or emotional arousal (hyperarousal), with each category having even more specific symptoms of its own. Even though the veterans may not need to return to battle, they should expect treatment to last 5-10 years. It’s possible that only half of those who need PTSD treatment actually come forward.

The stigma attached to addressing PTSD using clinical help is not purely Canadian. Many American combat veterans suffering from PTSD are also often unwilling to seek help. Experts fear that the high suicide rates among veterans in recent years may be attributed to this failure. A confidential survey conducted in 2012 asked Army and Marine troops if they would feel weak asking for help with psychological issues, with 60% of Marines with mental health problems answering yes, and nearly half of those in the army concurring (Zoroya).

These sentiments remain, even though the Pentagon has spent years battling the stigma—imploring veterans to seek help and improving access to clinicians. Officials have also made it clear to the troops that their careers will not be affected negatively.

If you know someone who has gone through a traumatic experience, whether in the military or otherwise, urge them to seek help; we provide extensive resources for mental health treatment here at T4A, as well as our treatment directory. Try to get them to open up and talk about, and explain to them that danger exists if they ignore their condition.




Works Cited

“14% of Afghanistan Veterans Diagnosed with Mental Disorder.” CBC News, 2 July 2013. Web. 18 July 2013.

Zoroya, Gregg. “Troops Still Wary of Admitting Mental Health Problems.” USA Today, 2 July 2013. Web. 18 July 2013.

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Written by

Kevin Giles is a product of Santa Cruz, CA – the stoner capitol of the world. A born again Christian, Kevin loves his Lord Jesus and believes that his purpose in life is determined by God. He first entered drug recovery at the age of 19, suffering from an addiction to marijuana. He is a recent graduate of the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary, where he earned his Master’s degree in Christian Ministry. Passionate about God’s Word, he aspires to become a pastor or missionary. Kevin has also earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Kinesiology from California State University, Monterey Bay. His interests include traveling, movies, golf, fitness and reading. He also enjoys being outdoors as well as spending time with friends and family. Kevin’s faith, education and life experience give him a unique perspective on addiction, recovery and spirituality.

Filed under: Conditions and Disorders · Tags: Afghanistan, depression, mental disorders, mental health, mental illness, post traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, soldiers, trauma, veterans, war is operated by Recovery Brands LLC, a subsidiary of American Addiction Centers, Inc.
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