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War Surgery and Medicine

Treatment on Return to New Zealand

page 648

Treatment on Return to New Zealand

In the treatment of the neuroses it was felt that once the man was returned it was important to discharge him to civil life as early as possible. Treatment of the condition while holding the man in the Army was frustrated by the fact that the essential factor causing the condition was still present. Therefore the man was early relieved of any further concern regarding further service, possibly overseas.

Once discharged the patient became the responsibility of War Pensions, and under the direction of this department treatment was continued. It was feared that there might be very many recommendations for treatment at Queen Mary Hospital, Hanmer, coming from general practitioners, and a rule was laid down that patients could only be referred to Hanmer if recommended by a psychiatrist.

Actually, during the war years the number of pensioners in Hanmer never exceeded 25 at any one time, though some additional servicemen of Army, Air Force, and Navy were admitted. The average period in hospital was three months. The hysterics were the most difficult cases to treat.

Treatment was carried out at clinics in all main centres by medical officers attached to mental hospitals and by one or two other specialists, who were already officers of their local hospitals and were conducting clinics. With the ever-increasing numbers of patients a great strain was placed on the shoulders of the doctors, but in spite of this several new clinics were opened.

In a survey in 1944 the medical officer in charge of treatment, War Pensions Branch, considered that at least 95 per cent of all neurosis cases were back at work.

In 1950 there were very few men not working at some job, probably less than 2 per cent, and even cases at Hanmer were often only there temporarily, having required a period of treatment but being ready to resume work immediately on discharge.

Up till 31 December 1949, the following were the totals of cases coming before the War Pensions Branch of the Social Security Department:

Neurosis Psychopathic Personality Mentally Retarded Psychotics
Army, overseas 5792 207 170 377
Army, NZ only 774 43 57 58
Air Force, overseas 607 59 1 31
Air Force, NZ only 239 66 4 34
Navy, overseas 146 1 0 6
Navy, NZ only 31 0 0 6
Totals 7589 376 232 512
page 649

Thus there were at that date 5792 cases of neurosis arising from the Army overseas, compared with 607 in the Air Force and 146 in the Navy overseas. Since the percentage of personnel in the three services was Army 71 per cent, Air 23 per cent, and Navy 6 per cent, the Army overseas shows relatively a much higher percentage of cases than the Air Force and the Navy.

Until 1947, for all disabilities causing down-grading, approximately one in every six or seven was due to anxiety neurosis. In 1950 cases were still arising which were accepted as due to service, but by that time the new applications on account of some organic disability were becoming relatively more frequent.

From 2 NZEF in the Middle East the number invalided for functional nervous disease was only some 1900. The increase after demobilisation has been almost wholly due to neurosis. This post-war development of neurosis was peculiar to Europeans and did not apply to Maoris, and only a few Maoris were returned to New Zealand from the Middle East suffering from nervous exhaustion or anxiety neurosis.