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Post-traumatic stress disorder – a growing concern amongst British military veterans.

By: Max Lamont.

With the announcement this year that the British government is set to almost entirely recall all troops from Afghanistan, it couldn’t be of any greater relevance to focus our efforts on supporting the military veterans who suffer with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Official figures now show that mental trauma is on the rise amongst British service personnel. Over 11,000 serving members of the military have been diagnosed with mental conditions like PTSD and thousands more are believed to go undiagnosed.

Post-traumatic stress disorder can be recognized by three broad categories of symptoms. They can be grouped as follows:

Re-living the traumatic event:

  • Flashbacks – For military personnel this is usually from the battlefield, where they relive past experiences. With this usually come physical symptoms such as a racing heart or breathing heavily.
  • Night terrors – this can also be from past military experiences. These dreams are often more vivid and intense than a non-sufferer.
  • Alarming thoughts – The link between PTSD and suicidal thoughts have a direct correlation evidenced by the number of military veterans who take their own lives living with the disorder.

Avoidance:

  • Loss of interest – Like many links with depression a loss of interest and activities which were enjoyable to you is a symptom of PTSD.
  • Loss of contact – Cutting off contact with people close to you such as friends and family is a way in which PTSD sufferers try to isolate themselves.
  • Emptiness – For a sufferer to feel emotionally disconnected is very common as they concentrate to block out any form of feeling essentially becoming emotionally numb.
  • Guilt – Having a strong sense of guilt, depression or worry is often a reason why many military veterans can find it hard to fully integrate into society.

Hyper-arousal:

  • Lack of sleep – The bedroom can often be a daunting place for someone with PTSD. This is due to the fact that negative memories whilst sleeping can evoke the flashbacks talked about previously.
  • Easily surprised – The jumpy nature of a sufferer for a military veteran is again linked to warfare.
  • Feeling tense – This is often a consequence of feeling constantly pressurised.

The aforementioned symptoms are only the very basics of how a military veteran suffers from PTSD. It is long lasting — for example, diagnosis can still take place today for those who fought in the Falklands battle of 1982. The rate of PTSD over the last three years alone  has doubled, however the rate of the mental condition is still only at 2.9%, averaging lower than the representative number of the general population.

Over the last week I had the chance to speak to an ex Royal Marine who articulates the former culture surrounding PTSD. Gary Cuthell, Warrant Officer Class II, comments saying: “there are now much better procedures in place to deal with the conditions of mental health”. Mr Cuthell fought in the Falklands war where the assistance for physical injuries was of a high standard. Injured soldiers would be taken away for physiotherapy and treated with great care ensuring a quick recovery to the field. In recent years  the detection of PTSD has grown and more of an emphasise is taken to improve the quality given to mental health conditions.

As you can see from the above image, in the year of 2012 more military and Ex military personnel had taken their own lives than had been killed in battle. With regards to Afghanistan military veteran Sir Cuthell further comments: “within big battle, time is on your hands to get the job done, however nowadays there is much more trainning provided with regards to education around PTSD both before and after battle”. This is supported by the spending figures of the MoD as they have commited £7.4m to ensure mental health support is their for soldiers. Some families of fallen soldiers to this condition think the MoD could be doing more. One thing is for sure however, that the service for mental health is on the rise and with that so is detection.

For more information please visit the charity Mind for how to get help for a suspected suffurer of PTSD. Also another useful resource is this blog for further details regarding PTSD. 

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