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Norwegian Afghanistan Veterans Struggling With Mental Problems, Report Finds

© Photo : PNorwegian soldiers from Telemark Battalion in Afghanistan engage enemies from a long distance
Norwegian soldiers from Telemark Battalion  in Afghanistan engage enemies from a long distance - Sputnik International, 1920, 28.07.2021
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A majority of Norwegian veterans battling sleep problems, depression, anxiety and PTSD, often in combination with intoxication, shy away from seeking care, fearing it would hamper their further careers, a new report has found.
Norwegian war veterans dare not seek help for mental health problems they encounter as a result of overseas service, fearing consequences, a new report has found.
More than 70 percent of Afghanistan veterans who experience mental problems don't seek health care, broadcaster NRK reported. Among other things, they fear the consequences regarding their further careers in the Armed Forces.
The fact that veterans do not seek help for mental illness is not a secret for the Veterans Association SIOPS, an interest organisation for soldiers injured in international assignments.
“Most often it is about sleep problems, depression, anxiety and PTSD. Often combined with intoxication,” SIOPS Secretary General and former Chief of Staff of the Norwegian Navy, Øystein Wemberg, said.
“The most common explanation for not seeking help is the desire to deal with the difficulties themselves and fear of consequences for further careers. That one should lose security clearance, promotions and later foreign service,” he said.
Lack of trust in the help apparatus is seen as yet another important reason.
“It is not sustainable that so many veterans don't get the help they deserve. These are men and women who have sacrificed a lot for our country,” Centre Party MP and member of the foreign affairs and defence committee Emilie Enger Mehl said.
A woman with a girl walks past the site of a car bomb blast that targeted schoolgirls in Kabul, Afghanistan May 10, 2021.  - Sputnik International, 1920, 19.05.2021
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Mehl is concerned that unreasonable demands for compensation from the authorities make it difficult to seek help. According to her, it can take up to nine years for a veteran to have his case completed in the Government Pension Fund and Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration (Nav).
“The government made it this way that between 70 and 80 percent of veterans who apply for compensation are rejected. This is not a number to be proud of. It should not be a struggle to get help. These people have fought hard enough,” Mehl said, calling it wrong to put systems ahead of people.
According to the 2012 survey that looked at those who served in Afghanistan between 2001 and 2011, 4.4 percent of personnel claimed mental issues as a result of the service. However, Wemberg suspected a much larger unreported number, since among Lebanon veterans, wholly 12.4 percent reported mental illness.
“We want as many people as possible to seek help. The Armed Forces needs healthy soldiers, and that's why we must have openness,” psychologist and researcher Hans Jakob Bøe, one of the authors of the study concluded.
All in all, over 9,200 Norwegians have served in Afghanistan between 2001 and the pullout declared in 2021, with 10 killed in action.
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