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New fund for PTSD research

Retired Major General Rob Nypels (88) has donated a sizeable sum to the Nypels-Tans PTSD Fund that he himself established – one of the ‘named funds’ at the Leiden University Fund – to promote interdisciplinary research into psychotraumatology. The main aim is to research the effect of new treatments and thus improve the care for veterans and members of the armed forces.

Nypels lived through the second world war as a child in Apeldoorn. Later in life, he was posted to New Guinea as a military doctor. Wherever he went, he saw the scars that war leaves behind on people. Regardless of whether they had been detained in concentration camps or fought in Indonesia or Korea, people returned to the Netherlands traumatised and in a state of fear or confusion. Their families suffered too. ‘This garnered little attention in those days,’ says Nypels from his flat in Oegstgeest. ‘After the war, there wasn’t much understanding of their condition. Care for these people was non-existent.’

Controversial method

Change began to happen in the period in which Nypels began studying medicine in Leiden. He attended the lectures of psychiatry professor Jan Bastiaans, whose pioneering treatment involved getting patients to come face to face with their trauma under the influence of LSD. Many traumatised people thought the world of him, but his method aroused controversy among his colleagues.

"Proper care for these people was non-existent"

Some decades later, in the 1980s, Nypels found himself at the helm, as Director of Military Health Services. He fought for better care for veterans, but he too came up against a lack of understanding. ‘I suggested giving soldiers a questionnaire to fill in upon their return from Lebanon. This would identify any anxiety symptoms. Those in charge of the Army Medical Services didn’t think this was necessary. Only the “toughest commandoes” went to Lebanon anyway, they said, and these were less susceptible to trauma.’

With his named fund, the Nypels-Tans PTSD Fund [in Dutch], Nypels now supports research in the field of psychotraumatology. This once again uses the active ingredients in drugs, just like in Bastiaans’s time. Nypels learnt about the LUF through his wife. Her first husband, Prof. H.G. Schermers, had endowed the Schermers Chair [in Dutch] in International Institutional Law. ‘This gives me the opportunity to make a contribution while I’m still alive and kicking. It’s a great source of pleasure.’

Are you thinking of establishing a named fund or would you like to donate to an existing one? For more information, please contact Juliette Nieuwland at j.m.m.nieuwland@LUF.leidenuniv.nl or +31 71 527 3327.

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