Shell shock to Palaly syndrome

Dr Ruwan M Jayatunge M.D.

β€œIn war, there are no unwounded soldiers.” – Jose Narosky

Palaly is a well-known area in Jaffna and it is famous for the Palaly Air Base. Most of the soldiers go to the Northern Peninsula via Palaly airbase. Therefore, Palaly is a part of them. Palaly is in their memories, sometimes in their intrusions. Palaly syndrome describes various clinical and psychosocial ailments experienced by the Sri Lankan combatants and in the final scores how it affects the society at large.

Shell shock to Palaly Syndrome was a long way for the soldiers.

In the early years of WW1 Shell Shock was believed to be the result of a physical injury to the nerves. Shell Shock term was coined by the British Pathologist Col. Fredrick Mott. He regarded Shell Shock as an organic condition produced by miniature hemorrhages of the brain. Shell Shocked soldiers exhibited symptoms of extreme fear, shaking, psychogenic blindness, psychogenic paralysis and sometimes aphonia.

The Army was less sympathetic to the ordinary soldiers with Shell Shock. Official figures said that 304 British soldiers were court-martialed and executed. Between 1914 and 1918, the British Army identified 80,000 men as suffering from Shell Shock. During the World War 2 traumatic reaction to combat was identifies as War Neurosis or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. 10% of US Servicemen developed combat exhaustion in the WW2. Nearly 1363,000 soldiers were given medical discharges and 39% had Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

During the Korean War the term section 8 was widely used to describe causes of psychological combat trauma. Those who had been diagnosed with section 8 were dealt with in a very situational manner. The term PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder emerged soon after the Vietnam War. PTSD has been found in 15% of 500,000 men who were in Vietnam. There are estimated 50,000 veterans suffering from full blown symptoms of PTSD. At least half a million Vietnam veterans lead lives plagued by serious war related readjustment problems.

A new form of battle stress began in Sri Lanka mainly after 1983. Many Psychiatrists point out that number of psychiatric illnesses have been increased as a result of the Northern Conflict. For a combat soldier in World War 2 who served for 4 years the average time spent in actual combat was approximately 40 days. In Vietnam soldiers spent an average of about two thirds of their 12 or 13 month tours over 250 days in combat. But in Sri Lanka a large number of soldiers have spent 10-15 years in combat with short intervals. For nearly three decades, Sri Lanka experienced a social calamity as a result of an armed conflict and people were deeply traumatized. The echoes of the war trauma will affect Sri Lanka for generations.

Although the origin and the history of this conflict is very complicated and carries many versions and explanations, after all it is a collective trauma for the Islanders indeed. The North and South suffered from this conflict creating a large number of physically and psychologically traumatized people. War trauma is still hounding the

Sri Lankan society rising as social violence, political violence, political extremism, criminal activities, domestic violence, suicides, homicides, alcohol and drug abuse, cruelty to children and various other forms. Read More