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Couple battles red tape to stay in country

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28 June - 4 July 2013 | Vol 16 Issue 26

Supplemen t

Denmark’s only English-language newspaper | cphpost.dk ANDERS CLAUSEN

NEWS

Human Rights groups say Danish soldiers violated torture laws

5 NEWS

Light are on nobody home EU child abuse committee tries but can’t get a meeting in Denmark

6 BUSINESS

Welfare tourists? Danish study grants have been opened up to EU students, challenging the benefits of Europe’s open borders

Is your mattress a better bet? The nation’s banks can go years without being inspected

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CULTURE

Clinic to treat musician workplace injuries opens

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Price: 25 DKK

City region could be without after-hours GPs come September CHRISTIAN WENANDE

Fixing the blue

9 771398 100009

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Longer waiting times and reduced services at hospitals loom if doctors decide to make good on their threat to leave the health service

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REATER Copenhagen’s 1.7 million residents could be without after-hours emergency doctors from September 1, if general practitioners (GPs) decide to follow through with their threat to leave the health service as part of the ongoing doctor conflict. The Greater Copenhagen Regional Council, which manages the health service, will not be able to establish an alternative to the current after-hours service by then, according to Svend Hartling, who heads the region’s health service.

“People need emergency assistance, and if we don’t have a system to handle that, then we are left with a problem,” Hartling told Politiken newspaper. “Then we need to call in the emergency response and funnel all the resources we have into solving the problem. Emergency situations will be prioritised, while others must wait.” The capital region had already planned to take over operation of the after-hours services starting on January 1, but the system won’t be ready in time to deal with the potential three-month gap that could arise should the region’s GPs leave the health service early. GPs in other areas of the country will continue their after-hours duties even if they opt out of the health service. The government, health authorities and the Health Ministry have all warned

doctors that they are required by law to give six months notice of their intention to leave the health service. But the doctor’s union, PLO, disagreed. “The regional health services have terminated the agreement themselves, so in reality they can’t very well expect GPs to continue with the after-hours services,” PLO head Peter Orebo Hansen told Politiken. Health authorities accused GPs of using patients as hostages and warned that their actions could have far-reaching consequences. “It’s a bomb. People won’t be dying in the streets, but the service in the emergency wards will be compromised and that will affect waiting times and comfort,” Thor Grønlykke, a spokesperson for Socialdemokraterne, told

Berlingske newspaper. “It will be indefensible if they choose to do it.” PLO, on the other hand, argues the health authorities missed their opportunity to settle the issue properly. A majority in parliament voted on March 5 to give responsibility for the emergency after-hours services to the regional governments starting in 2014, but PLO did not find out until a journalist called for a comment. “We could have had a reasonable and professional discussion about what the best solution would be for people if they had told us about their plans to take over the after-hours services beforehand,” Birgitte Alling Møller, the head of PLO’s Copenhagen chapter, told Politiken. PLO will meet this weekend to decide whether to quit the health service.

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OPINION

THE COPENHAGEN POST CPHPOST.DK

28 June - 4 July 2013

In defence of being different

I

The Balancing Act BY SARITA RAJIV Sarita Rajiv recently moved from sunkissed India to snow-topped Denmark. Having hopped from east to west, she finds herself performing a balancing act between her old and new lives. A communications specialist in the past, she is now a gifting specialist. For more, visit ilovegifting.me

RECENTLY read about the Dansk Folkeparti advertisement that controversially asserted that one among the nearly 700 people due to be granted citizenship was a danger to Denmark’s security. Talk about one rotten egg spoiling the party for the remaining 699. That’s 699 people who, in all likelihood, toiled long and hard to do whatever it took to become a Danish citizen. They are normal people, like you and me, who put in the time and effort to learn Danish and to know everything they can about their adopted country and, to use the much abused term, become integrated. I couldn’t help but wonder how they felt ... hurt, humiliated and confused perhaps? Here they were, trying to blend in and belong, when they were singled out and plonked under a harsh, unflattering spotlight for, ironically, making the cut. Immediately after, I read Vivienne McKee’s column, ‘The joy of fitting in, or at least trying to’. These two articles got me thinking about how we always try to fit in. As a child and young adult, you want to dress like your peers and do all the seemingly cool things they do.

The pressure to conform shadows you like a faithful puppy. When you move to another country, this need to fit in and belong gets magnified a thousandfold. You adopt the customs and culture, you learn the language ... so that you don’t stick out like a sore thumb – so you’re just like everyone else in that country. But that rarely happens. You’ll always be different from most others, either by virtue of your uniquely quirky characteristics, your skin colour, your accent, your mannerisms or your beliefs and values. And perhaps, when you go back to your home country after spending years abroad, you’ll find it difficult to blend back in. Your travels and experiences have changed you, and you find that the perfect country you had built up in your imagination never existed. I’ve been guilty of this too: of trying to conform and of doing things because everyone around me was doing it. But over the years, I’ve realised that it’s okay to stand out and that being different can be a virtue. Sure, it’s not going to be a fun ride all along, but it can be rewarding. Because being different is not just about standing out. It’s about be-

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ing comfortable with who you are and celebrating your individuality. It’s about acknowledging and accepting everything that went into making you who you are. It’s a bit like making waves as an introvert in a world that hails extroverts. As long as your actions don’t hurt anybody, and as long as you respect the right of others to conform if they want to, it’s okay to beat your drums to a different tune. There will always be people who understand, love and respect you – who get who you are. And there will always be people who will come to your defence, as in the case of Denmark where the DF advert was widely condemned, with some newspapers even refusing to publish it. I’ve had the opportunity to grow up in Mumbai, a city I liken to a big wholesome pot of stew, where flavours

mingle and each spoonful offers you a taste of a different ingredient. I’ve been exposed to different languages, customs and cultures through friends, teachers, neighbours and colleagues from different parts of the country. Being different from each other was expected, it was normal. Sure, even in Mumbai, there are political parties that play spoilsport with their ‘sons of the soil’ ideology, which targets people from different states at different points in time. But Mumbai’s accepting nature remains more or less intact. So, when I came to Denmark, I came armed with the curiosity to learn more, meet different kinds of people and experience a different culture. When I leave, I hope to take back with me all that’s good and wonderful about this place. It’s probably going to make me different from who I was when I came here. But that’s okay. There’s a term that was used by early Bollywood filmmakers in India to describe how their new film was not the run-of-the-mill boy-meets-girl love story. They would say, in Hindi, Zara hatke hai (it’s different). I’m all for hatke.

currently account for 25 percent of all suicides n the US, and it’s a problem in Denmark too. But while PTSD cases have increased among soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan compared to previous wars, it is wrong to compare the number of cases and call the current generation weak. Many of the previous generations came back with the same problems facing soldiers today. But society at the time was unable to diagnose or tackle the issue. Besides, any kind of mental illness was taboo and could stigmatise the sufferer and ostracise them from society. The world at that time lacked the language to describe the symptoms. It was not a question of being tougher, it was a question of fewer resources and options. A recently re-released and uncensored documentary made by the esteemed film director John Huston in 1946, entitled ‘Let there be Light’, followes 75 returning Second World War veterans suffering from ‘psychotic neurosis’, and it provides ample evidence of the issues veterans faced at that time. The example set by General George Patton, who famously hit men in military mental hospitals and called them cowards, showed the kind of response

soldiers could expect for seeking help. But even today, society is judgemental when it comes to dealing with mental illness, and it is extremely difficult for people to reach out for help – particularly in the military where mental illness can be viewed as a sign of weakness. Furthermore, PTSD is not reserved for military personnel who have faced trauma in war. It can result from a variety of traumatic experiences such as traffic accidents, muggings, rape, torture, kidnapping and natural disasters. According to the National Centre for PTSD in the US, about eight percent of men and 20 percent of women will develop PTSD during their lifetime, and about seven million people in the US currently suffer from PTSD. Are they weaklings too? Are some of the soldiers misdiagnosed? Sure. Are there soldiers illicitly utilising the PTSD compensation for a payday? Probably, yes. Should the soldiers who actually suffer from PTSD be forsaken because of an imperfect diagnosis system? No. But these men and women who endure the horrors of war should not have to come home with scarred souls and broken spirits only to face ignorance as well.

You adopt the customs and culture, you learn the language

PTSD: The silent casualty of war

I

Christian Values BY CHRISTIAN WENANDE Christian Wenande’s Danish/American background caters well to a city brimming with cultural diversity and strife. The CPH Post journalist loves life in Copenhagen but yearns for the indomitable mountains, rolling prairie and starry nights of his Wyoming sanctuary.

’M WRITING this column in direct response to some comments that emanated, like stench from raw sewage, from a story appearing on The Copenhagen Post’s website last week (and on page 5 of this issue) about Danish soldiers obtaining compensation for suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) six months after returning from conflict. The said comments suggested that the soldiers returning home complaining of PTSD symptoms were pathetic weaklings and that previous generations rarely complained about PTSD. One commenter, who boasted that he had “been there, done that”, contended that soldiers were using PTSD as a scam to gain financially and “stay at home in pyjamas”. I was disgusted and angry, and my first instinct was to call them out for their display of disrespect and ignorance. But instead I thought I would take the opportunity to write about it here. PTSD, in name at least, is a relatively recent phenomenon. It was first used in 1980 in the aftermath of the Vietnam War. But, the effects of the disorder have been around ever since the horrors of war have existed.

Symptoms similar to PTSD were referred to as ‘nostalgia’ back in the 17th and 18th centuries, ‘soldier’s heart’ during the US Civil War and later ‘neurasthenia’. During the First World War, ‘shell shock’ was used – a term that developed into ‘combat exhaustion’ or ‘combat fatigue’ in the Second World War and the Korean War. ‘Stress Response Syndrome’ was the condition that Vietnam War soldiers were diagnosed with before PTSD became the preferred term five years after Saigon fell in 1975. According to the national PTSD association in Denmark, PTSD is “a psychological condition that occurs based on one or more traumatic experiences that affect the individual’s ability to complete even the most basic daily tasks. PTSD catalyses mental and physical reactions that often manifest themselves as if the person is re-experiencing the traumatic experience.” Since 2002, over 9,000 Danish soldiers have been deployed to Afghanistan. Some 43 soldiers have been killed and about 180 have been injured. Since 2007, about 75 soldiers have been sent home due to psychological issues, according to a report from the defence personnel service. Many turn to suicide. War veterans

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