A lack of mental health provisions for ex-servicemen who have witnessed traumatic events whilst serving for their country means that many veterans are left to deal with mental illness and behavioural problems on their own.
An increasing number of veterans who are left with depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are turning to alcohol, drugs, crime or suicide as a way of dealing with the traumatic memories of their time in service. Military culture and a fear of appearing weak means that many are suffering in silence and are leaving it too late to seek help(an average of 14 years after discharge).
Though no official figures exist stating the number of veterans currently serving sentences, the government estimate they currently make up only 3 percent of the prison population, though the National Association of Probation Officers say it is more like one in 10 prisoners, meaning there are twice as many veterans in the criminal justice system than are in Afghanistan.
Combat Stress, a charity dedicated to the treatment and support of ex-service men and women are trying to raise £30m for their The Enemy Within Appeal. Services are free of charge for veterans and offer help to those with conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety disorders.
Combat Stress have seen a 66 per cent increase in referrals since 2005 and currently have a case load of 4,300. Though it is promising that more veterans are asking for help, they hope their new appeal will encourage veterans and their families to seek help sooner than the average 14 years it usually takes for them to come forward.
The appeal will also hopefully make it possible to establish more community outreach teams, enhance clinical treatment of short stay residents and raise awareness of the plight of veterans with mental health injuries.