Author Topic: War vet could have been suffering from PTSD, doctor tells hearing  (Read 1067 times)

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War vet could have been suffering from PTSD, doctor tells hearing

http://www.canada.com/story_print.html?id=6405597&sponsor=

By Chris Cobb, Postmedia NewsApril 3, 2012


OTTAWA — A civilian psychiatrist who treated Afghan war veteran Stuart Langridge in the weeks before he committed suicide told a military inquiry Tuesday that the soldier could have been suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.

But Dr. Bernard Sowa said the corporal refused to discuss his military experiences in Afghanistan so it wasn't possible to confidently diagnose the disorder.

"PTSD was way in the background," said Sowa of his early treatment of Langridge. "But he was a young man who had been in a lot of distress for a long time. He was in a state of depression — anxious and suicidal. I wasn't minimizing the possibility of PTSD but I couldn't prove it."

A senior CFB Edmonton doctor testified last week that "it was a stretch" to say that Langridge was suffering from PTSD and insisted that longtime drug abuse was the root of the soldier's problem.

In only the third case in its 13-year history, the Military Police Complaints Commission is holding hearings into the March 15, 2008 hanging death of Langridge, who had served in Bosnia and was part of a high-risk reconnaissance unit in the mountains around Kabul, Afghanistan.

Langridge's mother and stepfather, Sheila and Shaun Fynes, allege that three separate military police investigations into their son's death were biased and more intent on protecting the military than finding the truth surrounding Stuart's suicide.

A subsequent military inquiry before a panel of one military engineer and two infantry lieutenants — who the Fynes say weren't qualified to rule on the case — found that the root of Langridge's problems was the divorce of his mother and biological father when he was five years old.

Langridge's family had to use the Access to Information Act to get a copy of the panel's report and still hasn't officially received one from the Department of National Defence (DND).

The soldier, who was buried on his 28th birthday, had attempted suicide five times — a history his family claims should have afforded him more care and protection at the Edmonton base.

He left a suicide note addressed to his parents requesting a small, family funeral, but the Fynes say the military kept the note from them for 14 months.

Langridge was instead given a full military funeral organized in co-operation with Langridge's former girlfriend — also referred to at the hearing as his common-law wife — whom the military designated his spouse.

The Fynes have launched more than 30 allegations against 13 military police officers who are expected to testify later this month.

Cocaine, marijuana and alcohol were major contributors to the soldier's depression, Sowa testified, but it wasn't possible to determine which came first — the depression or the addictions.

"People drink, they get horribly depressed," he said. "Mix in cocaine and they get a rush followed by a horrible crash."

The main immediate cause of Langridge's emotional troubles appeared to be a recent separation from his girlfriend who was angry that he wasn't committing fully to treatment for his addictions.

The drug and alcohol addictions needed immediate treatment, added the psychiatrist.

Langridge was found smoking marijuana in a hospital ward and Sowa said he "threw it in our face" that he had been smoking dope since the start of his treatment and had been making regular trips outside the hospital to meet his dealer.

"It shocked me," said Sowa. "He was an angry young man."

Sowa, who said he wasn't told about Langridge's death until a year after he hanged himself, eventually discharged the soldier at the insistence of the military who wanted him to continue treatment at his base.

Once there, Langridge's superiors placed him on a strict daily routine, required him to wear his uniform on duty, gave him a curfew and had him escorted to his counselling appointments.

Otherwise, he was free to come and go as he wished.

"For someone of Stuart's temperament," said Sowa, "these (conditions) would have been provocative. Knowing Stuart, I would say he would fight back if he didn't like the program."

Sowa said a "more graduated approach" would have been "more realistic," and his preferred course of treatment, however, the psychiatrist said he was reluctant to criticize the military "because they have their own culture."

Living in his truck after a fight with his common-law wife, Langridge asked his base surgeon to be returned to Edmonton's Alberta Hospital, but its psychiatric unit was full.

Instead, he was given a temporary bed at his unit, Lord Strathcona Horse (Royal Canadians) and was placed under what the family's lawyer, Michel Drapeau, characterized as a "suicide watch."

The army says Langridge wasn't under a suicide watch and says it did all it could to treat him.

The inquiry continues Wednesday.
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