Mental health charity Combat Stress has reported a 57% increase in numbers of Afghanistan veteran referrals from 2012-2013. The charity believes this issue will become highlighted as UK forces prepare to leave the country.
Combat Stress says in the past veterans waited an average of 13 years after serving before they sought help, but now veterans are waiting an average of 18 months. BBC defence correspondent Caroline Wyatt believes this could be explained by reduced stigma surrounding mental health problems as well as a greater awareness of the help available.
“The charity says it is small but a significant number of veterans who are battling these hidden psychological wounds that, if they don’t seek help, can get far, far worse and be far harder to treat.”
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is the most common concern from veterans, a condition that can affect anyone who has experienced some sort of traumatic event – such as military conflict. Symptoms of PTSD include difficulties sleeping, flashbacks and a change in mood.
Combat Stress chief executive, Andrew Cameron said that 20% of veterans are likely to suffer from mental health concerns and require specialist support.
“We cannot allow the ex-servicemen and women who suffer from the invisible injuries of war to go unnoticed and untreated. This is an unnecessary drain on society and our veterans and families deserve better.”
The Ministry of Defence has invested £7.4m to help improve mental health services and ensure they are readily available to all who need them. A spokeswoman commented to say that they were keen to reduce stigma even more to encourage people to come forward.