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Get a grip

Being a right-wing columnist under New Labour’s liberal fascist tyranny is a bit like being a South Wales Borderer at Rorke’s Drift: so many targets, so little time.

29 July 2009

12:00 AM

29 July 2009

12:00 AM

Being a right-wing columnist under New Labour’s liberal fascist tyranny is a bit like being a South Wales Borderer at Rorke’s Drift: so many targets, so little time.

Being a right-wing columnist under New Labour’s liberal fascist tyranny is a bit like being a South Wales Borderer at Rorke’s Drift: so many targets, so little time. And just when you think you’ve got ’em all covered — Harriet Harman, ‘Dame’ ‘Suzi’ ‘Leather’, windfarms, George Monbiot, dumbing down, Mary Seacole studies — another one pops up unbidden from the veldt to torment you with his bloody assegai.

Take this new Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) epidemic. Did you know there was an epidemic? I certainly didn’t till I watched Monday night’s admirable Panorama investigation The Trauma Industry (BBC1, Monday). Rather I thought, probably, as you did, that it was an affliction confined mainly to battle veterans.

PTSD — shell shock as it used to be known — is the terrible shaking men got after they’d been under heavy bombardment in the trenches; it’s the flashbacks Nam vets have about the Charlie ambush that wiped out all their buddies; it’s the fits of rage that Falklands veteran Robert Lawrence suffers as a result of being shot in the head by a sniper. Definitely not the sort of thing you’d ever get after a low-velocity shunt in the Tesco car park.


Apparently, we’re mistaken though. It seems that PTSD is so widespread a threat to the health of the nation that it has now spawned an industry worth £7 billion. Yes, not million. Billion. That is the annual turnover of the personal-accident-injury business in Britain and a massive chunk of it is taken up by PTSD claims. Twice as many more people are treated every year by the NHS for PTSD — 220,000 — than are in the entire British army.

The Panorama reporter getting very angry about all this was the veteran war correspondent Allan Little. He has covered ugly conflicts in the Middle East, in Africa, in Bosnia, and had numerous brushes with death, including one particularly upsetting one where his cameraman was killed next to him. He knows what PTSD is because he has had it himself — from survivor’s guilt to nightmares to diving on to the pavement whenever he hears a loud noise. His conclusion? It’s not pleasant but it goes with the territory; and the thing to do is not dwell on it but pick yourself up and get on with your life. Otherwise you’ll be stuck there for ever.

Really what his documentary should have been called is ‘Get a ****ing grip, you bludgers!’ And I’m amazed that any of the civilians who’d won big PTSD compensation claims for their ‘injuries’ agreed to be interviewed on the programme. One was a headteacher who’d trousered £407,000 as a result of the trauma she’d suffered dealing with tricky Muslim parents and governors at her school. This yielded possibly the programme’s only funny moment, when she revealed that even the sight of a niqab can bring her out in a cold sweat.

Know just how you feel, love. Remember the case, too. Incredibly irritating: a clearly very talented headteacher having her career blighted by our surrender-monkey approach to Islamist bullying. But worth getting on for half a million quid — of your money and my money — in compensation? Get away!

Another woman, an ex-nurse, had apparently suffered PTSD as a result of a minor knock she’d taken in her car. ‘That was my war,’ as she put it. Yes, her pain and distress were obviously real to her. But how many PTSD symptoms, wondered Little, are essentially psychosomatic, brought on by the victim’s understandable need to prove to lawyers and medics that they really are ill?

And wouldn’t it be better for everyone — apart of course from the personal accident, no-win no-fee claims industry, for whom I don’t think many of us could ever shed many tears — if all these PTSD ‘victims’ did what millions of far more mentally damaged people did after two world wars: pulled themselves together and got on with it?


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