Neurasthenic pensioners in the Irish Free State and Northern Ireland
in Shell-shocked British Army veterans in Ireland, 1918–39
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Chapter 3 examines the subsequent experience of the mentally ill Great War veteran in the newly established Irish Free State and Northern Ireland. Regardless of the diplomatic change in Anglo-Irish relations, this chapter demonstrates that 1922 should be seen as a crucial fracture in any analysis of shell-shock. The year witnessed the publication of the War Office Report into Shell-Shock. Emphasising longstanding theories of predisposition and hereditary degeneration in the causation of shell-shock, the report helped to shut down the shell-shock debate. In the aftermath of this account, little research and few publications were directed to war-induced neuroses or the plight of the mentally ill veteran in the UK. This pessimism coincided with the infamous ‘Geddes Axe’ enforcing a host of tax increases and economic cutbacks in the UK public sector. This austere management of public economies included Ministry of Pensions’ domestic policy; from 1922 onwards, there was a dramatic reduction in exclusive Ministry-run medical facilities, including facilities providing progressive and innovative psychotherapeutic treatment. There was a resulting assumption amongst medical and pensions officials that the neurasthenic pensioner could not be cured. Instead, mentally ill veterans were largely ‘pensioned off’ with little state intervention to aid their recovery.

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