Mental health referrals for veterans have risen by more than 25% in the last 12 months according to the veteran’s Mental Health charity, Combat Stress.
Combat Stress say the number of ex-servicemen and women being referred for mental health or post-traumatic stress disorders has risen from 1,802 to 2,264, with the rise largely attributed to the number of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan now seeking help.
Although not exactly unexpected due to the scale of UK military involvement in both Iraq and Afghanistan over the last 10 years, the rise is still of significant concern.
Considering however, that according to Combat Stress, it takes veterans an average of more than 13 years from the time they leave military service to seek help for mental health disorders, it is heartening that traumatised ex-servicemen and women are actually coming forward at all.
Fortunately there is now far greater awareness of how the psychological impact of battlefield stress can affect those who experience it first-hand. In addition, stigma surrounding mental health issues, particularly in the Army, is said to be diminishing.
Both these factors help to explain the steady rise in the number of veterans seeking help following the end of major combat involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan but it is crucial people understand that the human costs of both conflicts show no signs of dwindling any time soon.
Thousands of Armed Forces personnel who have suffered both physical and psychological injuries will need specialist healthcare in the future and for the rest of their lives. It is therefore paramount the government continues to acknowledge its responsibility to provide veterans with the kind of expert treatment they need.
Mental health disorders caused as a result of prolonged exposure to the trauma of intensive frontline combat operations require specialist clinical treatment programmes. We very much welcome the recent Budget announcement of increased funding for NHS veterans mental health services, but there is always room for improvement in terms of funding and resources.
Psychological trauma and any resulting mental health disorders can often take many years to surface let alone heal. As such, there will inevitably be many hundreds of ex-servicemen and women suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as well as associated depression and anxiety disorders who haven’t yet sought help.
It is crucial that those suffering with so-called hidden wounds seek treatment as soon as possible. Left untreated, symptoms such as flashbacks, nightmares, panic attacks and mood swings can get progressively worse and harder to treat.
Those suffering with PTSD need to be aware that their condition is normal, their needs are a priority and there are specialised services specifically available to them.
It is equally vital that the Ministry of Defence continues to work with the Department of Health to ensure that NHS health professionals have all the appropriate support and expertise required to treat and provide veterans with the psychiatric care they need and deserve.
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Zoe Sutton is a Senior Personal Injury Lawyer at Slater and Gordon Lawyers UK specialising in Military Claims.
Slater and Gordon Lawyers offer a free consultation for armed forces personnel injured during military service. 98% of claims are funded through a No Win, No Fee Agreement which means there is no financial risk to you. Call freephone 0800 916 9046 or contact us online and we’ll be happy to help you.
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