A top doctor at a Sydney rehabilitation treatment facility says there is a growing number of Australian military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
South Pacific Private clinical director Dr Ben Teoh treats damaged war veterans at the northern beaches facility.
He told News Corp last week that an increasing number of soldiers returning from Afghanistan were suffering from chronic PTSD.
Dr Teoh’s comments appeared in a report that revealed how the Australian Defence Force had recorded 212 ‘self-harm’ incidents during the last five years, 58 of which occurred last year alone.
Dr Teoh said many veterans were not getting the support they needed.
“They are not getting better so they feel people do not appreciate the severity of their condition and they have a sense of hopelessness,” he said.
“Many are very angry and anger is directly related to suicide.”
Dr Teoh said without proper treatment, the veterans were at risk of developing severe depression and becoming suicidal, particularly if they were abusing drugs and alcohol.
According to Dr Teoh, the constant worry about being shot by both the enemy and the Afghan soldiers they were training made the circumstances very traumatic for many veterans.
“They can’t distinguish between the enemy and peaceful people. My concern is that they might act on it,” he said.
The Service Police document obtained by News Corp shows that the army recorded the most individual incidents of self-harm with 175. The navy followed with 20 and the RAAF with 17.
174 of the 212 people who committed self-harm were males – 75 of them aged between 26 and 34 years.
Vice-chief of Defence Admiral Ray Griggs said that Defence was very concerned about suicide and self-harm.
He said that resources, personnel and training had been devoted to mental health, and that there is a strong commitment to overcoming the stigma attached to the issues.
“I think we [Defence] are at the forefront of what is truly a national challenge,” he said.