Written Answers. - Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Seán Power

Question:

44 Mr. Power asked the Minister for Defence when his Department first recognised post traumatic stress disorder; the extent of the problem; the steps, if any, being taken to deal with it; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19834/98]

Post traumatic stress disorder was first authoritatively described in the USA in 1980. At that time, however, it was believed that only stress of exceptionally long duration or severity, such as that encountered in Vietnam, could give rise to the condition. The condition came to attention in Europe at the end of the 1980s.

As knowledge increased in this area, it came to be accepted that the condition could also arise from incidents of less duration or severity than had originally been thought. By 1994 the growing body of knowledge assembled on the subject made it clear that PTSD could arise from situations such as those faced by Irish soldiers in the course of their duties, and in March 1994 procedures were put in place to prevent its occurrence where possible, and to treat it as an entity where it did occur.

The steps being taken to deal with this problem are twofold. Support and counselling systems are in place for those who are exposed to stress which may result in PTSD. Such counselling is believed to reduce the numbers of people who develop PTSD after an incident. For those who develop PTSD counselling and psychiatric services are offered either within the Army itself or where this is not practicable, patients are referred to the appropriate civilian treatment service. Currently approximately 20 persons are or have been in treatment for PTSD of varying degrees of severity.

It is important to point out that individuals who in the past presented with symptoms which are now recognised as being related to PTSD, such as anxiety, flashbacks or sleep disturbance, received, at that time, all appropriate medical attention and the support of their peers and commanders. The Medical Corps continues to monitor developments in this field generally and in particular continually reviews the position with regard to the experience of our own military personnel.