As troops return home from the Middle East, more and more of them are being diagnosed with mental disorders. The government says it's because PTSD is less stigmatized. The opposition says not to send people to war.
The number of Bundeswehr soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other psychological illnesses has increased by 25.6 percent in the past 12 months, according to a news report published Tuesday. There were 204 soldiers diagnosed in 2014, 55 more cases than the previous year.
This brings the total number of returning soldiers receiving treatment for PTSD, depression and anxiety issues up to 431 as Germany pulls its troops out of Afghanistan, according to German daily Berliner Zeitung, which said it had seen a new Bundeswehr report on psychological trauma among troops.
"War makes you sick," said Christine Buchholz, the opposition Left party's spokeswoman for defense policy, in response to the numbers. The best way to prevent these disorders is not to send citizens to war, she told the paper.
Agnieszka Brugger, the Green party's expert on security, said the increasing cases of traumatized soldiers illustrate the long-term consequences for the individual soldier deployed overseas. The process of recognizing cases and getting soldiers the help they need must be accelerated, including those who have left the Bundeswehr after returning from deployment, Brugger advised.
The government, however, said it sees the response of the Bundeswehr positively despite the rising numbers. Indeed, the increase in cases is because "the sensitivity to the situation has grown while the stigmatization of those affected has shrunk. That is the reason, in our view, for the increase of cases," explained a spokesman from the Defense Ministry.
The Bundeswehr also cited the number of soldiers returning home, where they are first able to be diagnosed, as reason for the increase in psychological disorders among troops, as sometimes symptoms are only noticeable a year later.
Although most have left, 850 German soldiers remain with the NATO non-combat mission in Afghanistan to train and help the Afghan army. In January, Germany's parliament, the Bundestag, approved a mission for Bundeswehr soldiers to train Kurdish peshmerga troops to fight the "Islamic State" (IS) terror group in Iraq.
es/sms (AFP, dpa)