800 British Troops Treated at the Priory ; Flashbacks of Atrocities Haunt Soldiers Crippled by Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder on Their Return from Iraq
Woolf, Marie, The Independent on Sunday (London, England)
More than 1,541 soldiers who served in Iraq are suffering from psychiatric illnesses - with 800 personnel admitted to the Priory clinics in the past three years.
As British soldiers come under intense pressure from serving in an increasingly hostile environment, families of those personnel returning from Iraq have also been advised to look for "possible after effects".
The Ministry of Defence has given military families leaflets and presentations about the symptoms of combat-related post-traumatic disorder. Many soldiers returning from Iraq have suffered horrifying trauma after seeing their best friends killed in action and civilians hit by suicide bombs. Others have become withdrawn, erratic or depressed.
The mental health effects of Iraq are being taken so seriously that psychiatric centres to help soldiers deal with the stress of combat have nowbeen established in Iraq by the Ministry of Defence. Ministers want soldiers to approach medical staff if they fear they are suffering from a mental health condition and have said that "no stigma should be attached to this". But some front-line soldiers complain that they have been accused of "whinge-ing" when they have admitted to trauma.
L/C pl James Potrowski joined the Irish Guards at 18 and was in one the first units to be sent to Iraq's front line in 2003. On his return to the UK from active duty his mother and sister noticed that his behaviour was becoming strange and erratic. They sought help from the Army but they were constantly rebuffed, they say, even when they reported that their son was sleeping in the garden and was suffering horrifying flashbacks of a little Iraqi girl clinging to her father's dead body. After failing to gain help he insisted on trying to guard the house and stole firearms from his barracks. After a police raid he was sentenced to seven years in prison.
His mother, Deborah Higgins, said that she feels betrayed by the military.
"James went off to Iraq a normal lad. He was in Iraq for four months. He was in the front line. He had seen his best friend blasted to bits. …