Alarming suicide rates among Balkan veterans

The suicide rate among Danish veterans who took part in the Balkan conflict is alarmingly high compared to the average among Danish soldiers who took part in other conflicts, according to a new report (here in Danish).

The report from the Center of Suicide Research reveals that 43 Balkan veterans took their own lives between 1992 and 2013, which is a far higher rate than the veterans taking part in other conflicts such as in Iraq and Afghanistan. In total, 91 percent of all suicide victims during the period served in the Balkans.

Lilian Zøllner, the head of the Centre for Suicide Research, believes that one of the reasons was that the Balkan soldiers were on a peace mission and were unable to react to the many terrible things they saw.

”They've seen others suffer without being able to do anything about it,” Zøllner told DR Nyheder.

”It could be rape or something that happened to children. When the soldiers came home, they might have felt guilt about not stepping in and that could have led to hopelessness and, ultimately, to suicide.”

READ MORE: Veterans secure PTSD compensation

Let down
Only five Danish soldiers died on active service during the Balkan conflict (1991-2009), which ultimately means that suicide accounted for 89.5 percent of all the Danish casualties.

Zøllner contends that another reason for the high suicide rates among the Balkan veterans was the lack of support that the soldiers were offered at the time to deal with their PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome).

It was only last year that soldiers who develop PTSD after six months of coming home became entitled to receive compensation. The defence minister, Nicolai Wammen, agreed that the Balkan soldiers had been let down.

”There is no doubt that we let down our Balkan veterans back then,” Wammen told Dr Nyheder.