Monday, January 28, 2008

Canada appears to have same type PTSD problems we have

Lack of PTSD follow up

Ombudsman questions military over lack of PTSD follow-up
Clinics | Treatment approach various
Print this ArticleEmail this ArticleComments | 1Resize TextBookmark this ArticleFacebookDiggStumble Upondel.icio.usLive BookmarkTechnoratiTOOL HELPBy JOHN COTTER
The Canadian Press
Published Friday January 25th, 2008
Appeared on page A1
EDMONTON - The military ombudsman is investigating how the Canadian Forces is dealing with soldiers who return from Afghanistan with post-traumatic stress disorder and with their families.

In 2002, before large-scale deployments of troops to Kandahar, the ombudsman's office issued a critical report on PTSD that contained 31 recommendations for change.

Six years later, the ombudsman is reviewing half of those recommendations that weren't implemented.

They included a call to establish databases on the number of soldiers with stress-related injuries and on soldiers who kill themselves, and another to improve support programs for the families of those diagnosed with PTSD.

The probe is a follow-up on what progress has been made but within the context of Afghanistan, where an estimated 10,000 Canadian troops have served since 2005.

"The big observation we have made is that there needs to be consistent treatment for people no matter where they live," interim ombudsman Mary McFadyen said from Ottawa.

"We want to ensure that the Canadian Forces is doing what it can to help families. And from the general observations we have made, it appears that there is more work to be done."

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a psychological injury from severe stress such as military combat, seeing another person harmed or killed, or learning that a close friend or family member is in serious danger.

Symptoms can include flashbacks, nightmares, withdrawal from friends and family, and increased aggression. PTSD can lead to depression, anxiety, and alcohol and drug abuse.

Successful treatment can take years.

A report prepared for the Public Health Agency of Canada last fall in the Atlantic region called PTSD an emerging mental-health issue.

The report noted that it is important to anticipate how service in Afghanistan will put soldiers at risk for increased rates of post-traumatic stress disorder, substance use and depression.

The Department of National Defence is responsible for helping soldiers with PTSD and their families while Veterans Affairs cares for those who have left the service.

Both departments work together when soldiers make the transition to civilian life.

Veterans Affairs, which isn't subject to the ombudsman's investigation, is funding a network of clinics in London, Ont., Winnipeg, Calgary, Quebec City and the Montreal area that deal with PTSD cases.

A new clinic is to open later this winter in Fredericton and another new clinic is to be announced for Edmonton later this year. Three others are to be announced in other regions before the end of 2009.

While there are no statistics on how many veterans who have served in Afghanistan are seeking treatment, officials expect a surge of new cases as thousands of troops complete tours.

"We think we are seeing just the tip of the iceberg, frankly," said Doug Clorey, director of mental health policy for Veterans Affairs. "As we have thousands of military people coming back from Afghanistan and other conflicts, we expect this increase to not only continue but to increase."

At the same time, there is a national shortage of psychologists, psychiatrists, mental-health nurses and social workers that can result in yearlong waiting times for treatment.

Department of National Defence officials haven't been available for comment this week.

The ombudsman's report, which is to include new recommendations, is expected this spring.

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