Experts dispute army man's claim of stress
Published 18/02/2010 | 05:00
A CONSULTANT psychiatrist has told the High Court she believes a retired Army captain does not have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but if he does it is only in a mild form.
Professor Patricia Casey said she did not believe retired Captain Patrick Holmes has PTSD according to the criteria laid down for that condition. If he had anything, it would be mild PTSD, she said.
She was giving evidence for the State in the continuing action by Mr Holmes (54), St Mary's Road, Galway, against the Minister for Defence and the Attorney General. He claims he suffered PTSD after experiencing four life-threatening situations while serving with UN peacekeeping troops in Lebanon in 1981.
Prof Casey said those with severe PTSD simply do not function, they tremble, can't watch television or the news, can't read newspapers, and often develop depression.
PTSD was not "a silent condition" but was "very noticeable".
In her opinion, Mr Holmes' condition was based on the fact that he had not gone to his GP after returning from Lebanon, continued to work in the Army and had a low rate of abstention from his duties.
He had also applied to go back to Lebanon and had commissioned a painting to remind him of Lebanon.
She said she had seen Mr Holmes on April 4, 2005, and conducted a "very difficult" examination. While he was very pleasant, it was difficult to get a spontaneous account of his symptoms as he read the symptoms he experienced from a notebook.
She said Mr Holmes had related to her the four incidents at the centre of the proceedings and had also said, on his return from Lebanon, his family said he was like "a zombie".
He also told her he was still suffering nightmares two or three times a year and sometimes got flashbacks and could see comrades jumping for cover.
He had also said he became withdrawn and could never marry because he didn't want to be around people since the incidents in Lebanon. He had described himself as gregarious prior to his tour of duty but a solitary person on his return.
A consultant psychiatrist with the British Army, Colonel Martin Philip Deahl also told the court yesterday he believed, if Mr Holmes had PTSD, he would have been unable to function at a level where he had obtained a Masters degree.
Col Deahl said, in circumstances where Mr Holmes had not reported psychological complaints to the army, there was very little that could be done other than mass screening of army personnel which had been proved to be "singularly ineffective".
He also said: "Nobody is the same after going to war. War changes an individual. It is inevitable."
Mr Holmes alleges the army failed to properly diagnose or treat his PTSD. He claims his condition arose from his experiences of four incidents in Lebanon, including an attack on an outpost in Lebanon while he was in command, and another attack close to a Land Rover in which he was patrolling. He also claims he feared he was in danger of summary execution after being detained and interrogated by a Syrian officer.
A consultant psychiatrist who earlier gave evidence for Mr Holmes, Dr Miriam Moore, said she believed he had suffered PTSD.
The hearing continues.