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More than Bodies are Injured in War

A gift this ANZAC day was the announcement by the federal government that, after five years of campaigning, the parliament has backed a motion to support a Royal Commission into the personal cost of service for Australians. The suicide rate, which has outstripped that of deaths in active duty since Australian Defense Forces were deployed to Afghanistan in 2001, has seen repeated calls for action. While statistics are difficult to accurately compile it is suggested that, on average one veteran dies by suicide every two weeks.

Traditionally, PTSD, a set of responses that occur in those who have been through a traumatic event which threatens their life or safety or that of others, has been the condition most people associate with veterans. Symptoms include re-living the distressing event, hypervigilance, irritability and sleep disturbance, avoidance of triggers and emotional numbing. Yet another, less recognized distress may also contribute to the despair of veterans. This is moral injury, where a person ‘may perpetrate, fail to prevent or witness events that contradict deeply held moral beliefs and expectations’ which produce guilt, shame, disgust and anger and an inability to forgive ones-self. While some authors see moral injury as a sub-set of PTSD others draw the distinction suggesting PTSD is primarily related to fear while moral injury relates to shame and an assault on the person’s spirituality.

The Royal Commission is to be welcomed and trust it addresses all facets of those who return from the horror of war.

Morris,D and Wadham, B One veteran on average dies by suicide every 2 weeks. This is what a royal commission needs to look at The Conversation March 23, 2021

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