Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Cases Rise in German Soliders in Afghanistan

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Cases Rise in German Soliders in Afghanistan

One Psychiatrist for 4,500 Troops

The Germany armed forces' deployment in Afghanistan appears to be having an impact on soldiers' psyche. Several newspaper reports claim the number of cases of post-traumatic stress disorder is on the rise. And the Bundeswehr lacks psychiatrists to provide the necessary treatment.

The number of Bundeswehr soldiers affected by psychiatric problems has increased rapidly in recent months, with the number of those suffering from so-called post-traumatic stress disorder having risen particularly quickly, two German newspapers reported on Thursday.

Both of the dailies, the Rhein-Zeitung and the Süddeutsche Zeitung, referred to a request for information made to the defense affairs committee of the German federal parliament by politician Elke Hoff of the Free Democratic Party (FDP). "Up until now the government has neglected to do anything to better the psychological care and treatment of soldiers," she told the Süddeutschen Zeitung.

According to the newspapers, the number of soldiers suffering first symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder had risen by over 30 percent in the first six months of 2009. This resulted in a total of 163 cases. Last year, a total of 245 cases of the psychiatric disorder were reported in the military, with 226 of them occurring in Afghanistan. In 2006, only 55 soldiers were diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. During the past six months, attacks on German forces in Aghanistan have risen.

More Mental Health Care Urgently Needed

Hoff brought up the issue because of the findings of a study she commissioned from German military psychiatrist, Mario Horst Lanczik. He spent time in Afghanistan examining soldiers with PTSD and found that the psychiatric care of German soldiers was not adequate either before, during or after combat. Hoff also pointed out that there are not enough psychiatrists available in the military to provide the necessary support. Only half of the 40 potential positions for psychiatric support in the military's medical corps are currently filled. And there was only one psychiatrist available to the 4,500 German troops in Afghanistan.

According to the Rhein-Zeitung newspaper, two therapists are available directly to soldiers in the Hindu Kush. The Bundeswehr has said that they are part of a network of pastors and army doctors.

Hoff is now demanding more mental healthcare options for German soldiers. She told the Rhein-Zeitung that she wants the empty positions in the medical corps filled and she has said that psychiatric problems following military deployment abroad should not be stigmatized as a hindrance to a career in the army. If this was the case, then soldiers might be tempted to hide their problems, she noted.


It appears that the American Army and other military forces are the only ones to have problems getting enough mental health care available in the war theater and back at the troops home bases. This is an issue that is not going to go away, as long as troops are in war zones there will be stress related issues and either the troops get treatment early or they will do much like they do now, suck it up, ignore it because they fear it will harm their careers by asking for help, or wait decades like many Vietnam war veterans before they have a melt down.

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