Cork soldier who is suing state tells court that mental illness seen as weakness

By Ann O’Loughlin

A soldier who has sued the State after he was given the anti malarial drug Lariam while serving overseas has told the High Court he did not tell of his problems on his return home because it would be the end of his life in the Army.

“Even today mental health issues are seen as a weakness. I was a sergeant in the Army,” Anthony Cole told Ms Justice Bronagh O’Hanlon.

On the fourth day of his case against the State Mr Cole who served for 33 years in the Army until his retirement two months ago said in early 2010 a few months after he came back from overseas duty in Chad he was getting progressively worse. He had headaches, was feeling down, suffered nightmares and was cranky.

Anthony Cole

“I was in a dark, dark place. I was confused. I was hoping it would go away.I was not going to complain." he said.

He added : “Nobody serving in the Army has mental health issues. It can’t happen,” he said and added it would be the end of his life in the Army.

"Mental health issues are a no go in the Defence Forces," he told the High Court.

Anthony Cole, Duneoin, Carrigaline, Cork has sued the Minister for Defence and the Attorney General after he was given Lariam, also known as Mefloquine for two weeks before he travelled, while on his 2009 tour of duty and for a number of weeks on his return home from Chad.

He has claimed when he arrived in Chad his sleep became very disturbed and for no obvious reason he became unhappy and exceedingly irritable. He has claimed he felt so bad in himself that after three weeks he seriously considered returning home but persisted with the five month tour of duty.

He has further claimed he has never felt normal since then and his life has been thrown in to complete disarray and he suffers nightmares, headaches, mood swings and depression.

He alleges there was an alleged failure to adequately warn members of the Defence Forces including himself of the side effects of the anti malarial drug Lariam and an alleged failure to warn him of the dangers and risks associated with the medication.

The claims are denied and it is contended there was an alleged delay in bringing the proceedings.

Cross examined by Liam Reidy SC for the State, Mr Cole agreed he had not brought up his symptoms on about seven visits to doctors after he came back from Chad.

Mr Cole when asked why he did not bring up the matters in meeting with doctors, he said he was not going to admit he was weak.

For thirteen or fourteen months he said he did not know what was wrong with him.

“I was very embarrassed . I didn’t say because I did not know what it was."

Put to him by Counsel he did not mention it once in doctor visits he replied:

“I didn’t because I did not know what it was.I was in the Army doing what I was trained to do, putting my head down and getting on with it.”

In April 2011, he said his life was intolerable and he knew he needed help.

"At that stage I could not function. I needed help,” he told the court.

The case before Ms Justice Bronagh O’Hanlon continues tomorrow.

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