There is a prominence of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression in peacekeepers, suggests a new study [PDF] that also tries to shed light on the risk factors that lead to mental health conditions incurred by peacekeeping service.
Researchers from Ontario and South Dakota reviewed surveys completed by 1,016 male veterans of the Canadian Forces and discovered a 10% rate of probable PTSD and a 29% rate of probable depression. Deployment was found to be significant, as it doubled to tripled the rate of probable PTSD and increased the rate for probable depression by half. (Peacekeepers can be traumatized on missions by getting injured or by witnessing horrific acts they could not prevent.) Also of interest was the correlation between probable PTSD and unmarried status, and researchers inferred that unmarried men had decreased social support.
Peacekeeping has become more dangerous since evolving from observer operations to peace-enforcing missions in the 1990s. With about one in nine deployed peacekeepers with probable PTSD and almost one third with depression, the government must be able to justify the risk of not only physical harm but also psychological harm. PTSD affects quality of life and can cause people to re-experience traumatic events and emotionally numb themselves towards the things and people they love. The study’s findings demonstrate the great need for a support system once peacekeepers return.
One step in the right direction to caring for veterans is Veteran Affairs Canada (VAC). Spokeswoman Janice Summersby notes that VAC provides rehabilitation, vocational training, and peer support for veterans diagnosed with PTSD, which involves meeting other veterans with PTSD. As well, VAC provides a support network for the family of the veteran. Veterans of peacekeeping missions can also find support by joining the Canadian Association of Veterans in United Nations Peacekeeping (CAVUNP), which promotes assistance to veterans, commemoration of fallen veterans, and education to the public about peacekeeping and peacekeepers. The local chapter is the Cpl Michael W. Simpson Chapter and can be contacted by calling 905-832-9379.
Photo by Ace of Nothing from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.