With the plight of brave men and women fresh in our minds, now is the time to think about those who will be returning from Iraq and Afghanistan between now and 2014, when the last battalions are due to return from war.
Thousands of soldiers who appear healthy are suffering from an invisible wound – post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The condition manifests after the witnessing of horrific things.
These people will be haunted by traumatic memories for the rest of their lives, with many turning to drugs and alcohol, and many others losing their families, losing their homes and even losing their desire to continue living.
In some extreme cases, PTSD sufferers commit violent crimes – just a few months ago 24 year old Afghan veteran Aaron Wilkinson hit the news for shooting dead his 52-year-old landlady. He has since admitted manslaughter on grounds of diminished responsibility and is now serving five years in prison.
A new documentary broadcast last night on Sky 1 showed Ross Kemp talking to a number of war veterans struggling to get the help they needed to cope with PTSD.
One veteran interviewed, Simon Peacock, joined the 1st Royal Anglian Regiment at the age of 19. In 2007, he was blown up by a grenade in Afghanistan and almost died. His survival turned out to be the beginning of a far tougher battle that he is still fighting.
“I wake up in the middle of the night screaming,” he said. “I can’t go out of the house sometimes, you feel someone is out to get you…After the war, you come back and you are fighting another war to get on with your life. Often, this is worse than the war in Afghanistan, it’s harder.”
Kemp’s documentary highlights the lack of support available from the NHS, which already struggles to fund vital treatment for returning soldiers.
The Ministry of Defence recently reported that the number of soldiers returning from duty and needing mental health treatment rose to 1,733 in 2011, from just 398 in 2007.
Many private counsellors operate in the UK, offering immediate treatment to soldiers suffering from PTSD. To find out more, please visit our PTSD page.
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