Saturday, 4 January 2014

The same plight the world over - Germany

When German soldiers deployed to Kosovo, they expected to provide humanitarian aid - not to be involved in any form of combat. However, Kosovo and Somalia - and, of course, Afghanistan - presented them with situations for which they were not prepared. In 2012, the Bundeswehr counted 1,143 cases of PTSB, 194 added that year. This is only gradually reaching the public.

A self-help group / charitable organisation ("Bund Deutscher Veteranen") founded in 2010 has succeeded in having regulations changed a year later:

     Every serviceman and woman who has been wounded or suffered mental health issues since 1992
     has the right to remain in service, if it has been established that the injury was service related.

     They can remain in service for life, even if they did not join as professional soldiers.

One case was published (Der Spiegel online, 7 Oct 2013) of a soldier who is basically unfit for work, has daily (!) therapy and regularly loses his temper. It took several years until his condition was accepted as being service related - years of uncertainty for him and his family. He now works on a base near his home, but his commanding officer does not know what to do with him, nor do his colleagues. He won't go near weapons any longer.

The Bundeswehr now plans to introduce pre-deployment screening to rule out any psychological issues which could increase the risk of developing PTSD. According to one study, 1 out of 5 German soldiers who are deployed has a pre-existing medical condition (Sueddeutsche Zeitung online, 26 Nov 2013).

Like the UK Armed Forces, the Bundeswehr is going through a reform - at the heart of it is the reduction of the number of troops and the closure and reduction of bases. An increasing number of soldiers serve far from home. Troops feel uninformed and left alone with their worries - the number of formal complaints has reached its highest level since the foundation of the Bundeswehr in 1959 (N24 online, 29 Dec 2013).

All eyes are now on Ursula von der Leyen, the new German Defence Minister - her rhetoric, so far, has impressed soldiers in Germany (N21 online, 4 Jan 2014).

Well, the one thing that's changing is that soldiers and their issues are making it into the media in Germany, there are support groups and gradually increasing support from the public. The debate in the UK has been going on for a while - but how much further have we really got?

And why can't we seem to get to grips with PTSD?

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