Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Romania failing traumatised soldiers


The Romanian army is ignoring the existence of debilitating combat stress disorders among its military, according to a year-long investigation published Monday.

A documentary broadcast on the website of Romania's Gandul newspaper tells the story of a soldier, Florin Jalaboi, who was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after he served in Afghanisatan.

Jalaboi, who tried to commit suicide on three occasions, was forced to retire after finding himself unable to cope. "The army did not admit that his sickness was a consequence of his profession so he was left with a 571 lei (128 euro, $171) monthly pension", the report said.

The soldier is described as "the man who does not exist" in the documentary after a military official denied soldiers suffered from the illness.

PTSD covers a broad range of symptoms found in soldiers returning from battle including anxiety, depression and nightmares, as well as physical symptoms such as an increased heart rate and excessive sweating.

Adrian Prisacaru, the Romanian army's chief psychologist, told reporters: "There are no soldiers diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder."

However Paul Fink, the former president of the American Association of Psychiatry, told Gandul it was "impossible" that Romania had no PTSD cases when around 20 percent of American soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan were found to be sufferers.

Romania, a NATO member, has sent 30,000 soldiers to war in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, with 1,000 still serving in Afghanistan according to official figures.

Canada and Britain have acknowledged that a percentage of their soldiers who served in Afghanistan and Iraq suffer from PTSD, with French troops in Afghanistan also affected according to their defence ministry.

The investigation took more than a year to put together and was supported by the Carter Centre, an American human rights organisation founded by former US president Jimmy Carter.

Army documents obtained by Gandul appeared to show the existence of PTSD symptoms among soldiers but no cases were officially acknowledged.

The army's refusal to acknowledge cases of PTSD created a "fear among soldiers of being stigmatised by a mental illness," the report said.

PTSD first gained attention in the United States in the 1980s when doctors noticed severe mental health problems among soldiers returning from the Vietnam War.

No comments: