New Zealand Defence ForceMonday 28 May 2012, 2:44PM
Recent criticism in the media about the Government's lack of
support for 'shell-shocked' soldiers is unfounded says the NZ
Head of Health for the NZ Defence Force, Surgeon Captain (SGNCAPT)
Alison Drewry says that all NZDF personnel deployed on operational
missions receive psychological and physical health support before,
during and after their deployment.
"The nature of the jobs our people undertake means that during
deployments we are often put in situations with the potential to
have long-lasting effects on our mental health. Our people go into
dangerous situations by the very nature of their work: not only
environmental danger but we have the added issue that others are
also deliberately trying to kill or harm us.
"We have been proactively managing the health of our deployed
personnel since we were in Angola in the mid-nineties.
"Deployment related stress, in particular Post-Traumatic Stress
Disorder (PTSD), is something we take very seriously, and we
provide all our personnel with a number of different mechanisms to
support them at all stages of a deployment.
"By no means does the care offered stop once personnel come home
from an operational theatre," says SGNCAPT Drewry.
The NZ Defence Force provides mental health care to all personnel
returning from a deployment, including a psychometric screening
designed to identify psychological distress, relating to potential
PTSD. An interview is also conducted by a NZ Defence Force
psychologist, who will review the person's psychometric screening
results, the deployment in general, and any concerns they might
have about their return home.
Personnel also have a health check within three months of returning
to New Zealand, which documents potential or actual exposure to
hazardous substances, chemicals, excessive dust, and stressful
"Those personnel who are identified as requiring a more urgent
follow-up are referred by the medical team in theatre, and are seen
by a doctor within seven days of their return."
If any of these examinations or interviews uncover any potential
mental health concerns or psychological and neurological injuries,
the person will be referred to external specialists to ensure they
receive the ongoing assistance and support required. A follow-up
psychometric screening is also conducted three to six months after
personnel return from deployment.
"We do have good systems to address the problems associated with
PTSD, and we are improving our systems to encourage people to come
forward and not to hide their issues until it is too late. Being
proactive about your health is a New Zealand wide problem, not just
for stress but for all types of health and social issues."