For hundreds of thousands of Australian men and women that have come back from war, it is something that they cannot forget. Something that they have to carry with them and struggle with everyday. Whether they served in WWI, WWII, Vietnam, Korea, East Timor, Iraq, Afghanistan – the horrors of war injure these people not just physically, but psychologically as well.
Mental health specialists have recently said that 30% of Australian soldiers return home with a mental illness – post traumatic stress disorder, heightened anxiety, social isolation, depression, sucidial and self harming tendancies – and these numbers increase with the length of the person’s tour, as well as the length of time that they are at home without receiving help.
The ‘Hack’ program on Triple J today discussed the issue of people coming home from war and the mental health help that they receive after they return home. Podcast is here:
In the program a spokesperson from the Department of Veteran Affairs said that they spend only $160 million per year on mental health services for veterans.
It is also brought up that it is a part of training for the armed forces that one does not become emotional about the things that they might see, or have to do, and that the job must be carried out. Which is a mantra that is regularly played out, and becomes a problem for these men and women after they return home, as it manifests as an inability to talk to others about your experiences either as an inability to express yourself, or not wanting to burden your loved ones with those things.
There are many veterans that do struggle a lot settling back into life at home, and the idea of not being in a war zone, being able to walk down the street and not have people trying to kill you.
The sounds of door slamming and cars starting, begin to sound to like bomb blasts and gun shots. The simplest of every day tasks begin to make you aggressive and overwhelmingly stressed. You take it out on the people that love you and you begin to feel like you are constantly angry. The faces of people you killed in war and the scenes of horror and destruction, come back to you in dreams and during the day – in the worst case scenarios, the soldier ends up killing themselves, or a member of their family.
These are not uncommon for soldiers returned from war, and many Australian veterans feel that the appropriate amount of care is not available for those who do need it.
Soldier On is a new charity started by two veterans in April 2012, to provide help for soldiers wounded both physically and psychologically and they do a lot of good work – http://soldieron.org.au
It’s the eve of ANZAC Day in Australia, and while it is not my opinion that there is anything bad about ANZAC Day, I do believe that some extra thought and money, should be put towards assuring that the men and women who serve our country should be provided with the best psychological help possible.
When you go to a service tomorrow, or you here the words on the evening news, think a little more deeply about those three words – “Lest We Forget”.
Let’s give them more meaning in terms of mental health.