Nine Danish soldiers have tried to take their own lives in the last 12 months since returning home from Afghanistan.
The figures were revealed in a currently unpublished report by the enlisted men’s union HKKF. The study shows that the alarming trend has so far been seen exclusively with young veterans in their twenties.
“This is a surprisingly high number. The attempts have come within a short period of time and it is very worrying that returning soldiers feel so bad, given that the military has a system to help them,” said HKKF consultant Yvonne Tonnesen. As an HKKF Lifeline operator, Tonnesen regularly speaks to traumatised soldiers recently returned from war.
Of the nine attempted suicides reported in the study, four were deliberate car crashes, two were failed overdoses of prescription drugs, and two were failed hangings. Another man walked fully-clothed into freezing cold water, only changing his mind on the brink of losing consciousness. The one common thread in all cases was that the soldiers kept their actions hidden from their families.
“The soldiers say that they have just had enough of the daily battle simply to get out of bed. Some say they won’t try suicide again. Others say ‘next time I’ll succeed’,” said Tonnesen, adding that few soldiers come to terms with reality immediately after returning from war zones.
The Danish military offers both group therapy and individual counselling to help the returning soldiers’ transition back into normal life, reports the Politiken.
All personnel are posted a questionnaire by the military six months after their homecoming to determine if they are suffering from any psychological problems, although as many as 30 percent do not reply. “These are precisely the ones that we need to have contact with,” said Tonnesen.