Socialist Worker

Joe Glenton: Army won’t free traumatised man

by Siân Ruddick
Issue No. 2181

Anti-war soldier Joe Glenton is still being held in custody despite being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

He faces prison for speaking out against the war in Afghanistan and for desertion.

A psychiatric report by medical professionals has certified that Joe has the stress disorder following his experiences in Afghanistan.

His defence team has argued strongly to the army that because of this Joe should be released and all charges against him dropped.

But the army has refused to even consider releasing Joe. He will now be held in the “military corrective training centre” in Colchester until Wednesday of next week when his case will be reviewed.

His case is indicative of the way that the government and the Ministry of Defence treat all soldiers with PTSD.

During 2008, 3,181 new cases of mental disorder were identified within Britain’s armed forces personnel. This represents a rate of 16 in every 1,000 members of the forces.

Over half of these are of soldiers who have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. Unsurprisingly, officers are the least likely to suffer, so the proportion of ordinary soldiers affected by PTSD is much higher.

Bullet

On learning that Joe had the disorder, an army doctor told him he was still “able to run from a bullet” and gave him sleeping pills.

Clare Glenton, Joe’s wife, told Socialist Worker, “The army is continuing to fail in its duty of care to Joe. PTSD seems to be heavily ignored in the army. It needs to be treated seriously.

“I hope Joe’s case encourages soldiers to seek treatment and help with the condition. Joe has known people with PTSD who have been sent out on tour after tour and end up getting into trouble.”

Mental health problems are on the rise in the British and US armies, with many people committing suicide after their experiences fighting in wars of occupation.

The trauma of fighting the “war on terror” is taking its toll on the working class people on the frontline. According to the Ministry of Defence, 67 soldiers who have returned from tours of Iraq or Afghanistan have committed suicide.

Suicides are also on the rise in the US army. In 2008, 197 soldiers committed suicide and there have been 211 suicides in 2009 so far.

PTSD symptoms can take two years to appear and many soldiers hesitate to seek help for them.

There is little wonder about this, as the macho atmosphere of the army and the associations of mental health problems with weakness help create a culture of silence on the issue.

The army is also very hesitant to accept that conditions such as PTSD are caused by the experience of war. Some officers have attributed the condition to the breakdown of relationships, financial problems and drug abuse.

But these often come after the disaffection and trauma of being in the army have had a massive impact on individuals.

The proportion of former soldiers living on the streets or abusing drugs is huge. Many are mentally scarred by what they have seen and done.

Abandon

They get no support from those who lionise them while they are fighting their wars, but then abandon them when they no longer serve any use.

Joe is currently being woken up every morning at 6am by a loud kick on his door. This is how the army “sensitively” treats people with PTSD.

Clare said, “The support that he has been getting from the outside has made this time easier for him. The army’s treatment of him has made him more angry and determined to fight on.”

Send Christmas cards and letters of support to Joe Glenton, Military Corrective Training Centre (MCTC), Berechurch Hall Camp, Colchester, Essex CO2 9NU. Protest for Joe, Thursday 16 December, 9.30am, Office of the Judge Advocate General, 81 Chancery Lane, London WC22A 1BQ


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