NZDF unaware of mental health figures
Tue, 09 Oct 2012 6:18p.m.
By Brook Sabin
It is one of the most dangerous jobs around, so those in the New Zealand Defence Force are screened to be physically and mentally fit.
However a 3 News investigation has uncovered a dramatic increase in the rate of mental health issues within the Defence Force, suggesting that an increasing number are facing an enemy within.
“The main conditions are mood disorders and anxiety disorders,” says John McDowall, associate professor of psychology at Victoria University.
“For mood disorders the principal one is depression, and the anxiety disorders are things like post-traumatic stress disorder.”
Figures obtained under the Official Information Act reveal that back in 2006 there were just 39 mental health cases across the entire Defence Force. By 2011, that figure had increased to 134 cases.
The Defence Force is spinning it as positive news.
“We've been encouraging people to present with mental health issues and the fact that they're being recorded better and being referred on is quite a positive for us,” says director of Defence Force health surgeon Captain Dr Alison Drewry.
However the papers also reveal five suicides in the past six years, and that doesn't include the death of Corporal Douglas Hughes in Afghanistan in April, nor Private Alexander Stewart Rope who died near the Linton Army Base last Friday.
In both of those cases, the coroner is yet to rule on cause of death.
Dr Drewry says that any mental health risk that might come to the attention of the Defence Force would be taken seriously.
“If somebody was identified as being at risk, then their access to weapons would be removed very quickly,” she says.
While the Defence Force points out that its rate of mental health cases is lower than within the general population, it concedes low morale doesn't help.
And Labour Party defence spokesman Iain Lees-Galloway says that’s something the top brass need to address.
“When you link in the fact that morale is as low as it is, and the difficulties the Defence Force has had recently, this is something Defence Force leadership need to pay very close attention to.”
Until 3 News requested the figures, the Defence Force was unaware that mental health cases were on the rise. It has now set up a regime to regularly monitor what's happening. But some argue that – given other countries have been doing it for decades – our approach has been slack.
Post a Comment
Before commenting, please take the time to read our moderation guide
(Won't be published)
17/10/2012 9:36:36 p.m.
Robert Urlich wrote:
The military has a long history of stress disorder blindness. World War One personnel were shot for cowardice when in fact they suffered severe trauma from trying to survive in the most horrendous conditions. I wonder if the current surge in Ss might not be that personnel know they are in unwinnable situations. Most Ss vicitms seem to reach a point where they see no other option - the inhumanity of military being far more dangerous than the perceived dangers experienced by many Ss victims.
10/10/2012 8:42:31 a.m.
“We've been encouraging people to present with mental health issues and the fact that they're being recorded better and being referred on is quite a positive for us,”
That simply is not good enough.
It took four decades for PTSD to be recogised in Vietnam Veterans.
The reasons why that generation of soldiers were not identified early are the same for all soldiers. From a fear that it would end their careers to how their peers would perceive them.
There is no excuse anymore for not having evaluations in place for identifying those at risk after the first four years of deployment.
Of course that would cost.
10/10/2012 1:37:29 a.m.
More torture to report wrote:
Excellent journalism. Does TV3 have somebody to follow-up a story about abuse in interrogation centres and prisons? Information: very recent allegations that interrogation techniques have been modified to include putting gasoline and diesel into, or replacing entirely, water used in simulated drownings. Sources say it stings eyes and causes skin to redden (I believe these are understatements). Sources also hint at related burnings. Haven't much more of a lead except the name Al Ahnbar (a province in Iraq, please understand the name could be misheard and information through sources under pressure). I'm uncertain how widespread the practice is. Other abuses include routine beatings of head against walls and floors and choking, allegations include such chokings lead to one or more deaths later disguised as prisoner suicide by hanging. Sources also imply medical experimentation that people won't talk about it because it is too horrifying. Broken bones and dislocated limbs noted.
9/10/2012 10:34:34 p.m.
The government has just screwed over the lower ranks in the military with its latest pay adjustments. Lower ranks get a small payrise that all but disappears with cuts to allowances. Meanwhile officers get enormous pay rises. Maybe, if the lower ranks were accorded more respect, then there would be less mental issues.
9/10/2012 10:16:57 p.m.
About time those at the top have been made to take notice instead of having their heads in the sand, or not being told? Unfortunately this is just the tip of the iceburg. I came back from Ops with PTS but never knew for 2 years, 2 years of bad sleep, nightmares with my eyes open and closed, thoughts and plans of suicide, no emotions and no one to talk to because I had no idea what was wrong. I cracked at work and was sent on leave with a heap of sleeping tablets (Duh!). Defence need to educate their people, not lecture, not direct personnel to watch each other. I was very lucky, thanks to someone outside of Defence. There will be more people who are having problems but won't say anything because it's seen as weakness, that will be hard to combat. If Def can teach their people to kill, why can't they teach their people to live? Who knows, if Def find/develop a programme that works maybe we can take it to our schools and help our kids.
9/10/2012 7:26:38 p.m.
Bill blaikie wrote:
I have raised the issue of mental health and especially PTSD over the last couple of weeks, with 3 article in national newspapers. I have also launched a NZ PTSD website that discusses this exact issue. See http://ptsdyouarenotalone.org.nz/about-3/
9/10/2012 7:24:17 p.m.
Some of the most worrying people in terms of mental health that I have ever met personally are in the army. They seem to take in a lot of people with very serious problems. The worst case was a soldier I was boarding with in the 80's. It was as though he would have a nightmare and then thought whatever he dreamed had really happened. One day he dreamed I gave his 7 year old son a hiding. He came after me talking as though it had really happened and he saw me do it. It was the most frightening thing that has ever happened to me. I had no idea what he was talking about and he was totally furious at me for supposedly beating up his boy. He was in the army and clearly had a serious problem. I've met a few others who were much the same.
32 months after the first earthquake, dozens of Christchurch...
All 350 passengers on board a commuter train that derailed e...
Video has emerged of a skydiving incident in Motueka last ye...
The woman who first tried to lift the lid on paedophile Jame...
Copyright © 2013 MediaWorks TV. All Rights Reserved.