A day before setting himself alight outside a Defense Ministry rehabilitation center, a former soldier with a post-traumatic stress disorder reached out to a social worker warning he might harm himself, according to a report Friday.
Itzik Saidyan, 26, remains in critical condition after his self-immolation on Monday outside the Petah Tikva offices of the Rehabilitation Department for disabled soldiers.
Army Radio reported that on Sunday Saidyan had contacted his social worker, warning his situation was getting worse and that he could not go on any longer. However, he did not receive a response, according to the report.
The Defense Ministry confirmed Saidyan sent a message Sunday to the social worker, but gave a different version of events.
“The worker got back to him immediately and when he did not answer, acted according to protocol — she contacted those responsible for treating him, his psychiatrist, his counselor from one of the NGOs and his landlord. After he was informed that if he did not get back to her she would contact police, Itzik replied to her that everything was alright and that he was a little agitated. The worker had another round of consultations with those responsible for his care,” the ministry said.
The IDF Veteran’s Association has said that Saidyan was frustrated over his treatment by authorities. He was recognized by the Defense Ministry as having 25 percent disability from his post-traumatic stress disorder, but had requested 50% recognition. The ministry had refused, saying at least a portion of his condition was due to childhood trauma, not his military service.
Saidyan served in the Golani Infantry Brigade during 2014’s Operation Protective Edge. He participated in the Battle of Shuja’iyya, a neighborhood in Gaza City that saw some of the fiercest clashes in the conflict.
He was interviewed about his struggle with PTSD by Channel 12 two years ago.
Recalling the deadly combat in Gaza, he said he lost seven of his brothers-in-arms within three hours of the beginning of the fighting. “And after that I spent another two and half weeks in Shuja’iyya,” he said.
Following Saidyan’s self-immolation, the Defense Ministry has pledged to improve its services for disabled army veterans and on Thursday Defense Minister Benny Gantz said he was forming a public committee to plan reform of the Rehabilitation Department.
Gantz on Friday said a first meeting on reform plans had been held, and that a team would be established that includes representatives of the Defense Ministry, professional experts, public representatives and members of the IDF Disabled Veterans Organization.