Author Topic: News articles related to PTSD and Canadian Soldiers  (Read 1936 times)

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News articles related to PTSD and Canadian Soldiers
« on: March 31, 2012, 12:34:28 PM »

City soldier back from Afghanistan is one of hundreds still battling PTSD


Hard luck.

That?s what is spelled out, tattooed on the knuckles of Cpl. Mike Mleinek.

The burly 33-year-old soldier had the eye-catching tattoo done a few weeks after he arrived back in November 2006 from his first nine-month mission in Afghanistan.

?That?s what I?ve been through, it?s been nothing but hard luck,? says Mleinek.

?It?s what I?ve been dealing with while I was (in Afghanistan) and when I came back.?

Mleinek says a countless number of ?small events? in the war-torn country triggered symptoms of post-tramatic stress disorder. However, he didn?t realize there was a life-changing problem until several months after a family vacation in Disneyland, a trip taken immediately after his deployment. Endless crowds of tourists got to him in Disneyland ? dubbed the Happiest Place on Earth.

Being in lineups and other confined spaces with so many people had him on edge, and in retrospect, he says, may have triggered what he later recognized as panic attacks.

?I felt like things were out of my control,? says Mleinek, who during the vacation found himself occasionally reaching for his sidearm even though he was no longer carrying a gun.

?I was so used to carrying a weapon and I had no control of what was going on.?

Mleinek is among 1,100 Canadian soldiers who have shown signs of PTSD after serving in Afghanistan. He is just one of 3,500 people who have suffered from a mental illness related to deployment between 2002 and 2008, according to figures from the Canadian military.

Mleinek, still based at Edmonton Garrison, believes the numbers are even higher since it takes so long for some soldiers to realize they need help with their symptoms.

He says the symptoms he suffered in Disneyland only flared in the months after the family vacation. His temper became harder to control and going out grocery shopping with his family was a constant struggle ? the crowds of shoppers triggered anxiety attacks.

Sleeping was also a struggle. Mleinek says he still suffers consistent nightmares and flashbacks.

It was a full year after his mission that Mleinek acknowledged he was in dire need of help. He was admitted three times to hospital for suicide attempts.

?This isn?t an injury where you realize, hey, your leg is broken,? he says.

?I had a problem talking about my symptoms because you don?t want to be seen as being weak, but I wanted those nightmares to stop. I went through some very dark days.?

Mleinek says a psychiatrist at the Canadian Force?s new Operational Trauma and Stress Support Centre in St. Albert connected him to a ?soldiers-only? support group ? something he credits for saving his life.

Speaking with other soldiers about their PTSD battles finally helped him open up. They had all been there.

?The soldiers in my support group have all been through what you?ve been going through,? says Mleinek, who visits the St. Albert centre twice a week for treatment.

?You are not dealing with PTSD on your own. They know what it?s like to go on for four days and not sleep.?

And still, he would return to Afghanistan in a heartbeat.

?This is my job,? said Mleinek, who hasn?t yet been cleared for deployment.

?I want to be alongside with my soldiers. I signed on the dotted line and I would go again. There is no life like it.?
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