Norwegian military psychiatrist concerned over Afghanistan pressure / News / The Foreigner

Norwegian military psychiatrist concerned over Afghanistan pressure. The Norwegian Armed Forces are sending soldiers back for missions in Afghanistan before they have recovered from mental stress. The military’s top psychiatrist says he is worried about the consequences. The Ministry of Defence says just over 5,820 soldiers have been sent to Afghanistan at least once since the beginning of 2002. There are details about how many individuals serve more than once, but it admits there are no collective figures because of time and cost.

afghanistan, soldiers, norwegian, military, psychological, stress, trauma, jon, reicheldt, ptsd, disorder, redeployment, nato



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Norwegian military psychiatrist concerned over Afghanistan pressure

Published on Thursday, 7th October, 2010 at 13:31 under the news category, by Michael Sandelson   .
Last Updated on 7th October 2010 at 20:03.

The Norwegian Armed Forces are sending soldiers back for missions in Afghanistan before they have recovered from mental stress. The military’s top psychiatrist says he is worried about the consequences.

MajGen Brovold visits Norwegian soldiers (illus. photo)
MajGen Brovold visits Norwegian soldiers (illus. photo)
Photo: Forsvarets mediesenter/Stephen Olsen


Risky

The Ministry of Defence says just over 5,820 soldiers have been sent to Afghanistan at least once since the beginning of 2002.

There are details about how many individuals serve more than once, but it admits there are no collective figures because of time and cost.

“[There is] too little time to rest and adjust your nervous system to peace-time functioning. This, combined with high levels and long duration of operational stress, increases the risk for unwanted effects concerning mental health,” LtCol Jon G Reichelt MD PhD, chief psychiatrist Norwegian Armed Forces tells The Foreigner.

Last week, several sex-starved soldiers serving in Afghanistan told their own magazine that they get a high from killing people.

This alarmed the military’s Inspector-General, Per Sverre Opedal, and Minister of Defence Grete Faremo was called to a crisis meeting.

The army’s senior communications advisor John Gystad told The Foreigner at the time he believes soldiers’ training is adequate, blaming the episode on “a few rotten apples.”

“We do not want trigger-happy personnel, but those who reflect upon what it means to be a soldier. We have a system for gathering experience and information about the conflict there, and try to train them as realistically as we can. Soldiers have to be mentally-prepared and ready to make decisions about taking life, or what do to when they see their best friend killed,” he said.

Understaffed

NATO psychiatrists recommend a ratio of 4-5:1. Soldiers should spend two years at home following a 6-month deployment.

Most nations send their soldiers back more frequently, according to Reichelt.

“The acute need of having the best and most competent soldiers on the ground dictates this.”

He believes Norway has this policy because of understaffing.

“We are short of manpower, especially certain specialists. Operative considerations, for example concerning the safety here and now for our soldiers, will override the possible negative long-time effects.”

Minister of Defence Faremo agrees there is a need for action.

“It is my responsibility as Defence Minister to make sure our personnel are not subjected to excessive strain. There is no doubt that the mission we have taken on in Afghanistan is extremely demanding. There is a constant need for more specialists and experienced officers,” she writes in an email.

Traumatic

Meanwhile, Reichelt is concerned about the possible dangers and side effects of redeploying soldiers too soon.

“The possibility of an increased prevalence of mental disorders, such as PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), is a worry. We have to have adequate manpower to do our job, and divide the burdens equally, so that the soldiers can both wind down and take care of their family and relations. This cannot be replaced or compensated for by medals or psychiatric interventions,” he says.

He also does not discount there could be parallels between the wars in Afghanistan and Vietnam.

“This will largely depend on the outcome of the war. The concept of meaning is important when it comes to coping with the experienced stress. So, if the war will be looked upon as a mistake, it will be harder for veterans to cope with the stress they have experienced.”



Published on Thursday, 7th October, 2010 at 13:31 under the news category, by Michael Sandelson   .
Last updated on 7th October 2010 at 20:03.

This post has the following tags: afghanistan, soldiers, norwegian, military, psychological, stress, trauma, jon, reicheldt, ptsd, disorder, redeployment, nato.





  
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