Hidden costs emerge eventually

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Some issues never go away: veterans of past wars are forced to campaign over lack of support in the aftermath. For example, in the past year a class-action lawsuit was finally settled against the federal government focusing on long-term disability benefits to disabled veterans – clawed back in some cases by the amount of disability pension the individual received.

With another war freshly behind the country, a report from the Canadian Forces finds that eight per cent of those in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2008 were found to have post-traumatic stress disorder. A further 5.5 per cent have other depressive disorders as a result of service.

PTSD is a condition people a generation or so ago might not have been all that aware about, but it’s been getting a lot more attention, not just in the area of military combat, but other professions involving tragic circumstances.

As with many other mental health issues, such a disorder presents that added dimension of not being as visible or detectable in some sufferers.

In fact, the veterans affairs critic for the federal NDP, Peter Stoffer, suggests the numbers presented in the report could well be higher; possibly some aren’t seeking treatment, or don’t want to reveal their problems for fear of being stigmatized.

The report said less than a third of the group used Forces mental health services during the follow-up period, which averaged four years.

That presents the question of whether more will seek help in coming years, with the added complication of having let a serious condition play havoc with their lives.

Although the federal government might have the best intentions to see that those who need help receive it, this is an area of health that, in general, doesn’t get the attention it deserves.

Citizens and politicians often get mired down discussing the costs of involvement in military conflict. It’s safe to say such hidden costs as this aren’t entered into the accounting process.

Organizations: Canadian Forces, NDP

Geographic location: Afghanistan

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