28 May 2012
Recent criticism in the media about the Government’s lack of support for ‘shell-shocked’ soldiers is unfounded says the NZ Defence Force.
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 incidents.
"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."
For further information please contact Ally Clelland, Defence Communications Group, 021 569 130