The suicide rate among Falklands/Malvinas war veterans is fourteen times the Argentine population average claim veterans' associations. At least 350 and possibly 454, veterans have committed suicide since the end of the war in June 1982, a figure higher than the number actually killed in combat or sunk with the cruiser General Belgrano.
"Negligence, lack of expertise and absence of political will greatly contributed to the worsening of the psychic condition that the war generated in all those who actively participated", argues a recent report from the Centre of former Malvinas Combatants, CEIM.
Veteran organisations claim Argentine institutions never had an adequate psychological assistance strategy for combatants, mostly forced conscripts from humble homes which the recurrent cyclical social and financial crisis of the country have plunged into poverty and extreme vulnerability.
The report also points out that Malvinas veterans' present high levels of "domestic violence" (37% admit the situation and 26% usually carry arms); drugs dependency; AIDS and a descendents' malformation rate higher than the country's average.
CEIM president Rodolfo Merlino said that among the main problems faced by the veterans are "health, housing, unemployment, which together with stress and depression generates great insecurity and vulnerability among veterans".
CIEM also shows that 10% of veterans have at some time thought of or attempted committing suicide and 28% of them have recurrent ideas on the matter.
The issue strongly reignited in Argentina following the success of the film "Enlightened by fire", based on a book by journalist and veteran Edgardo Esteban who recalls his war experience and difficulties in returning to normal life when the conflict was over.
"The main problem stems from the fact the Argentine Army never acknowledged its errors and blamed the conscripts for the defeat. Argentine society which originally supported the invasion, abandoned us and linked us to the military dictatorship", said Esteban.
When the conflict was ending "there was no help, we were 18 and thinking in returning home, settling, having a family, but instead we had to face death, anguish, depression, pain", added Esteban.
The several awards winning film, which begins with the suicide of one of its main players "has opened a constructive debate in Argentina and a new attitude towards veterans: then we were accomplices of the dictatorship, now we're victims".
"We must urgently revert the 'desmalvinización' (de-Malvinization) process suffered following the conflict and again "Malvinize" the issue, by extending psychiatric attention, housing and jobs for the war veterans", said Rodlofo Merlino.
"Argentina is settling accounts with the disappeared from the dictatorship and the human rights associations, but not with us the Malvinas veterans; the time must come when we are also compensated", highlighted Merlino.