Government not doing enough to help with PTSD, says veteran
An ex-serviceman suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder says the Government is copping out by claiming there is enough support for veterans with the condition.
Bill Blaikie, from Upper Hutt, was diagnosed with PTSD in 2006 after being part of an operation in Afghanistan in 2004, which resulted in the death of innocent civilians. He also survived a hostage-like situation.
He has been denied funding by the Government for an intensive group therapy programme in Australia, despite medical professionals saying it is vital in the next step of his recovery.
He is now having to raise money for the treatment via a Givealittle page.
Veterans' Affairs Minister Craig Foss said he could not comment on Blaikie's case, but said there was enough help available in New Zealand for sufferers of PTSD.
"After leaving the military, any veteran with a service-related injury or illness, physical or mental, is entitled to ongoing support through Veterans' Affairs and ACC," he said.
"Veterans' Affairs can fund health treatment, social and vocational rehabilitation, provide home-based support and income support, all here in New Zealand."
District health boards dealing with New Zealand citizens, including veterans, who required overseas assistance could apply for funding from the high-cost treatment pool, administered by the Ministry of Health, he said.
Blaikie said the funding he received for treatment did not go far enough to ease his pain. His condition reached crisis point in 2012, when he tried twice to take his own life.
"To me, it sounds like a cop-out," he said.
"All our allied nations are doing this kind of group treatment. Our closest ally, Australia, recognises this as a major part of the treatment process, so why don't we?"
FALLING THROUGH THE CRACKS
The Defence Force was getting better at recognising the symptoms of PTSD, but Blaikie said people were falling through the cracks.
"There are a lot of people who fall off the bus. A lot of PTSD symptoms may not show themselves until they have left the services. It is during that gap where a few people get to the stage where they just can't cope any more."
Labour associate Veterans' Affairs spokesman Phil Goff said he would look into Blaikie's case if asked by him.
"If this is a consequence of his service, we should be taking responsibility to get him back on his feet.
"I think it is too easy for us to stand up on Anzac Day services. The crunch point comes when we should be doing something a little more practical to help."
Kiwi soldiers asked to spend another 18 months in Iraq would be paying attention to how the Government treated current veterans, he said.
"It would be unfortunate if the message our current Defence Force is getting is, you can't rely on the Government to come to your assistance if what you do causes you to have psychological problems, like PTSD."
A Defence Force spokesman said on Tuesday it kept a watchful eye on current soldiers who showed signs of stress and fatigue.
"Periodic health checks are undertaken throughout an individual's career, and all personnel undergo post-deployment screening and follow-up on their return from deployments.
"Any personnel identified as suffering from PTSD are referred to external specialists for treatment and support."