Saturday, September 13, 2008

Australia Has "No Idea" How Many Of Its Soldiers Are Suffering Mental Health Problems From Serving In Iraq, Afghanistan

Better late than never :
Australian troops who have fought in the Middle East will be screened for the first time for health problems such as cancer, substance abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder, as part of an effort to boost health surveillance of soldiers returning from combat.

Of particular concern are the unknown rates of mental illness among returning troops.

Australia, unlike the US and Britain, has no idea of the extent of mental illness among its soldiers in the Middle East.

Defence, Science and Personnel Minister Warren Snowdon told The Weekend Australian that the Government was "only too aware" there had been gaps in identifying and treating the health problems of servicemen and women who had fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. More than 20,500 Australian troops have served in the Middle East since 2003. Australia currently has 1080 troops in Afghanistan.

"We know the performance has been less than satisfactory, especially in dealing with mental health issues facing our troops, so we are trying to fill that gap," Mr Snowdon said.

Last year, Defence revealed that 121 Australian troops returning from Iraq had been medically discharged from the military, many because of psychological trauma.

It is estimated that, at least, 10% of all troops who've served in Iraq will have to deal with PTSD fallout, if they're aren't already suffering its effects.

One source told me these screenings will likely involve testing for the effects of depleted uranium. Australians in Iraq were mostly kept away from the most heavily DU contaminated areas, but the toxic fallout from American missiles and tank shells can still travel on the wind, and vehicles.