Concern for mental health of Finnish peacekeepers

finnish flagsThere are some unwelcome similarities between returning Finnish peacekeepers and veterans of the Second World War, according to reports in the Finnish News Agency (STT). According to a medical corps officer, Colonel Matti Ponteva, both groups of Finns are reluctant to speak about their experiences in conflict zones with care staff.

The comments come after a recent tragedy in Rovaniemi. A man who recently returned from peacekeeping duty in Kosovo shot two men outside a nightclub. One of the men died, the other was wounded. After the attack, the peacekeeper turned the gun on himself.

According to Col. Ponteva, part of the blame in such incidents must rest on the authorities who place the mental health of peacekeepers low on their list of priorities.

The Colonel did say that there have been some promising developments in the mental health monitoring of peacekeepers, particularly as Finland sends its troops to areas that are more mentally challenging, like the current operation in Chad.

Earlier this month, local police in Chad detained some peacekeepers from Finland. The two peacekeepers were participating in a patrol with two peacekeepers from Sweden when they had their car, weapons and communication devices seized by local police.

There are currently 60 Finnish peacekeepers serving as part of a European Union mission to Chad.