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A look at the mental and physical effects of the vietnam war on veterans

Messenger Physical injury and death in war is expected.

  • PTSD is characterised by re-experiencing the original traumas through flashbacks or nightmares, avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma, and increased arousal - such as difficulty falling or staying asleep, anger, and hypervigilance;
  • Upgrades and improvements to treatment services and mental health promotion programs are now in train but have not as yet been fully implemented;
  • Until they are fully implemented, members of the ADF and veterans will continue to face challenges to receive best services;
  • Last week marked the 50th anniversary of Australian forces arriving in Vietnam;
  • Associate Professor Peter Siminski does not have a family connection to the Vietnam War, but he is fascinated by the data that conscription delivers;
  • But we also now know the stories of large numbers of veterans suffering major psychological trauma.

But we also now know the stories of large numbers of veterans suffering major psychological trauma. Former soldiers, whether they fought in Vietnam or Iraq, are dealing with some common but distinct experiences.

  • First, deaths and physical injuries for our forces in Vietnam were much higher than in Iraq and Afghanistan;
  • New programs are likely to be only partially effective in changing these attitudes.

All wars are horrible but each is different in its own way. Those who were in Vietnam, for example, often fought at close range with a resourceful enemy who could not be easily distinguished from civilians.

Those who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan were affected by the ever-present dangers of Improvised Explosive Devices IEDs and suicide bombers while on patrol during their period on deployment. The failure to properly treat Vietnam veterans, should remind us of our obligation to help returning soldiers to get the support they need. The war weary The experience of soldiers in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq contrasts to those involved in the Vietnam War.

First, deaths and physical injuries for our forces in Vietnam were much higher than in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some of the veterans, of course, had all four conditions. But surprisingly, levels of suicide for veterans, when compared to the rest of the population do not appear elevated or if so, only to a small extent.

These high levels of mental health issues immediately pose the question: Films like Apocalypse Now and The Deer Hunter vividly represent the profound personal crisis of many of the soldiers involved.

The nature of the combat meant the soldiers were killing in close range. But another key issue was that after Vietnam, we became much more aware of the psychological impact of war than previously. PTSD is characterised by re-experiencing the original traumas through flashbacks or nightmares, avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma, and increased arousal - such as difficulty falling or staying asleep, anger, and hypervigilance.

To be accepted as a disability, symptoms must last more than one month and cause significant impairment in functioning.

Long-term Vietnam veterans study reveals the mental and physical toll of war

In Vietnam, these high levels of mental disorders are linked with a massive absence of services. They were also substantially affected by the public response to their service involvement.

  1. Even when they are fully implemented, some problems are likely to continue. PTSD is characterised by re-experiencing the original traumas through flashbacks or nightmares, avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma, and increased arousal - such as difficulty falling or staying asleep, anger, and hypervigilance.
  2. Even when they are fully implemented, some problems are likely to continue. Upgrades and improvements to treatment services and mental health promotion programs are now in train but have not as yet been fully implemented.
  3. It was clear that the ADF mental health workforce needed to be considerably expanded and better trained.
  4. Those who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan were affected by the ever-present dangers of Improvised Explosive Devices IEDs and suicide bombers while on patrol during their period on deployment. These high levels of mental health issues immediately pose the question.
  5. They were also substantially affected by the public response to their service involvement. In defending and protecting Australian society, members of the ADF undertake activities that other Australians want but do not wish to do themselves.

Vietnam veterans came home to no fanfare, to indifference and sometimes open hostility. A half generation of young men were psychologically scarred not only in the medical sense described above, but also through a loss of direction in life and embitterment. Here to help It is too early to know if Iraq and Afghanistan veterans will experience the same level of mental disorders.

Early indications are that this is unlikely in Australia. Mental health services for both serving members of the Australia Defence Force ADF and retired veterans are much improved.

  1. It could also provide useful information for veterans' compensation. More worryingly, there has been an increase in suicide rates in United States soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan.
  2. Films like Apocalypse Now and The Deer Hunter vividly represent the profound personal crisis of many of the soldiers involved. For Associate Professor Siminski, it is the perfect formula to compare how the war experience affected servicemen.
  3. Until they are fully implemented, members of the ADF and veterans will continue to face challenges to receive best services. Upgrades and improvements to treatment services and mental health promotion programs are now in train but have not as yet been fully implemented.
  4. PTSD is characterised by re-experiencing the original traumas through flashbacks or nightmares, avoidance of stimuli associated with the trauma, and increased arousal - such as difficulty falling or staying asleep, anger, and hypervigilance.
  5. It's clear the effects of serving in Vietnam are lifelong and there's work suggesting it goes into the next generations as well.

Attitudes to veterans by the public are also more sympathetic. Nevertheless, present problems are real and concerning enough, remembering that PTSD can present some decades after exposure to the wartime trauma. More worryingly, there has been an increase in suicide rates in United States soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan. This has not been observed to date in Australian soldiers but could still occur.

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As noted, services are much improved. Room for improvement However, treatment services can be further improved. It was clear that the ADF mental health workforce needed to be considerably expanded and better trained. It was also clear that the model of a multidisciplinary care team of psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health nurses and social workers, that is commonplace in civilian practice, did not exist in the ADF.

Psychologists were engaged in a wide variety of roles, more in human resources and training and less in clinical psychology relevant to mental health problems and illnesses. Best practice Programs though need further development to achieve best practice including in suicide prevention.

Upgrades and improvements to treatment services and mental health promotion programs are now in train but have not as yet been fully implemented. Until they are fully implemented, members of the ADF and veterans will continue to face challenges to receive best services. Even when they are fully implemented, some problems are likely to continue.

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For example, senior staff readily appreciate that military culture does not, by its nature deal well with mental health problems that can easily be stigmatised as weakness. New programs are likely to be only partially effective in changing these attitudes. In defending and protecting Australian society, members of the ADF undertake activities that other Australians want but do not wish to do themselves.

  • But another key issue was that after Vietnam, we became much more aware of the psychological impact of war than previously;
  • Here to help It is too early to know if Iraq and Afghanistan veterans will experience the same level of mental disorders;
  • Attitudes to veterans by the public are also more sympathetic.

That these activities frequently have the consequences described above is a constant reminder that ADF members and veterans have every right to expect the best possible services and programs that can be provided. Last week marked the 50th anniversary of Australian forces arriving in Vietnam.