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The mental health of our armed forces

September 27, 2012

By 2014, most of our armed forces will be back home from serving in Afghanistan and other war-torn parts of the world, bringing with them an as-yet unquantifiable amount of trauma to deal with.

The Canberra Times reported:

As of June 30 this year, almost 44,000 troops have been deployed to the Middle East, with 964 having since been medically discharged, the Minister for Defence, Science and Personnel, Warren Snowdon, said.

Of those, 440 were discharged for conditions related to mental health.  Close to 70 per cent of that number were assessed to be suffering as a direct result of their deployments.

It is not uncommon to experience a set of reactions after traumatic, frightening or disturbing events.  This is something known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and our trained psychologists are experienced in treating it.

More than 250,000 Australians will experience PTSD in any one year.  The symptoms include reliving of events through memories, flashbacks and dreams.

The Times also reported that Minister Snowdown said “there was still a great stigma attached to mental health issues but he was heartened by the progress being made to tackle the problem within the Defence Department.”

That stigma exists within wider Australian society as well.  Mental distress is a natural part of the human experience, and we shouldn’t be afraid to talk about it.

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