14. Deputy James Browne asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence the supports provided for members of the Defence Forces who undergo traumatic experiences while serving on UN mandated missions. (Question 20397/18 asked on 10 May 2018)

Taoiseach and Minister for Defence (Deputy Leo Varadkar): I can assure the Deputy that the Defence Forces are fully aware of the importance of providing robust supports for personnel who require them, whatever the reason.

A range of medical and non-medical services are provided to ensure that Defence Forces personnel are medically fit to undertake the duties assigned to them and to treat any medical condition that may arise.

As a matter of policy, psychiatric and psychological services, as well as the Defence Force Personnel Support Service (PSS) are available to members of the Defence Forces. These provide for the diagnosis and treatment of psychiatric or psychological disorders through to counselling and critical incident stress management.

Defence Force personnel preparing for deployment overseas undergo a rigorous programme of training designed to help them carry out their peacekeeping mission and provide for their protection. As part of the mission readiness process, all such personnel are provided with briefings by qualified PSS staff, on Critical Incidents and their effects along with stress management and wellness. Personnel are also issued with the Defence Force guide to Critical Incident Stress Management which provides useful information including how to manage stress associated with such incidents.

In response to any significant operational incidents at home or overseas, PSS personnel trained in Critical Incident Stress Management are deployed to provide both one-to-one and group psychological support. In addition, prior to deployment, PSS trains a cross section of personnel in Critical Incident Stress Management Peer Support which enables them to provide initial psychological support (Psychological First Aid) to any personnel who may be affected by a traumatic incident. Such support would include normalising the reactions, enhancing individual stress management and where appropriate referral of personnel to additional resources such as the unit medical officer.

Defence Force personnel have, both while on a tour of duty and following their return home, access to a Primary Carer Medical Practitioner, either military (Medical Officer) or civilian (GP), whose role it is to assess, diagnose, treat and refer individuals as necessary. Personnel experiencing psychological issues can be referred by their Primary Carer to the Defence Forces Psychiatric and Psychological Service for assessment and treatment with onward referral to the civilian service if required.

While I am satisfied that these measures provide comprehensive supports to individuals in the Defence Forces who may require them, I can assure you that all such supports are kept under review.