A plea to recognise PTSD

“Shellshock” was hugely witnessed in veterans after WW1, and later “Gulf War syndrome” made the headlines in 1991 due to US and UK soldiers returning home from the war suffering symptoms of helplessness, panic, being scared, or an inability to sleep/walk/talk. Despite all of these indications, what we now know to be post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is “ill defined” in army personnel even to the present day, even though it is a recognised medical condition and has been since 1980.

Mrs Roberts’s husband’s psychiatric condition, following his return from Afghanistan, had failed to be recognised as PTSD, in spite of his unsuccessful suicide attempt and violence towards his wife. This indicates the army is still failing to recognise PTSD in a timely manner and are not providing adequate treatment and assistance to the sufferers. In this case, Mr Roberts should have been diagnosed and been given known treatments such as; EMDR, CBT, psychodynamic therapy, anxiety management, and or a pharmacological solution such as anti-depressants or benzodiazepines.

The lack of diagnosis and treatment might highlight there are other factor’s preventing the diagnosis and treatment of PTSD. For instance, economic factors, the burden it imposes on the forces or a stigma attached to mental illness which might be preventing the army from tackling the problem adequately.

Mrs Roberts is suing for personal injury as a secondary victim on the basis that; it was foreseeable that she would suffer physical harm from her husband as a result of his psychological symptoms; and in that she was having a relationship of love and affection with the primary victim; and came across the ‘immediate aftermath’ of the event; and had a direct perception of the harm of the primary victim and was of reasonable fortitude.

In this respect she is likely to succeed given her comments that she suffered 5 miscarriages, her husband’s behaviour became increasingly erratic, and she was being physically hit by him in his sleep. Despite all these indicators of what we now know to be PTSD the army failed in their duty of care to Mr Robert’s  in providing the care he required but rather as Mrs Robert’s comments extraordinarily returned him to combat despite these circumstances.  In failing in their duty of care to the primary victim, Mr Roberts they also failed Mrs Roberts as the secondary victim.

It is hopeful that in the future PTSD in army personnel is taken more seriously, and cases such as Mrs Roberts’s, it can be prevented by the MOD discharging their duty of care to army personnel by diagnosing and treating PTSD sooner and better. 

To read the full article on Mrs Roberts' case please click here.

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