Terrible legacy of a decade of war: 500 troops a month seek mental help as endless fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq takes its toll
  • New study reveals impact of conflicts on UK's hard-pressed Armed Forces
  • 1,472 new cases of troops needing treatment in first three months of 2012
  • Female personnel twice as likely to suffer ill-health than male counterparts
  • First figures compiled since launch of MoD's 'Don't Bottle It Up' campaign

By Mark Nicol, Daily Mail, 7 July 2012

Nearly 500 military personnel a month are asking to be treated for traumatic disorders after serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The impact of a decade of conflict on Britain’s hard-pressed Armed Forces is revealed in new Ministry of Defence figures.

A study of the 1,472 new cases of Servicemen and women seeking help in the first three months of the year shows some clear trends. Female personnel are twice as likely to suffer mental ill-health, and lower ranks are more vulnerable than officers.

The figures are the first to be compiled since the launch of the ‘Don’t Bottle It Up’ campaign, an initiative by the Ministry of Defence intended to encourage more soldiers, sailors and airmen to seek help for mental or emotional issues.

The campaign is intended to break the stigma around these issues. According to previous reports, soldiers have suffered ridicule and contempt from their colleagues for admitting they are struggling to cope.

The findings by Defence Analytical Services and Advice, a research arm of the MoD, found that soldiers serving two or more tours of duty are six times more likely to suffer than those on one tour.

Concern for the veterans of these long campaigns is underlined by the fact that more former servicemen have committed suicide since the 1982 Falklands War than died in battle, when 255 were killed.

Earlier this year, Lance Sergeant Dan Collins, 29, committed suicide. In a note he described the guilt of surviving an incident in Afghanistan that killed two comrades. Collins was found hanged in a quarry near his home in Cardigan, West Wales.

Taking its toll: Earlier this year, Lance Sergeant Dan Collins (right) committed suicide over the guilt of surviving an

incident in Afghanistan that killed two comrades, including Lance Corporal Dane Elson (left)

The MoD found that across the Royal Navy, Royal Marines, the Army and the Royal Air Force, reservists show higher rates of mental problems than regular personnel.

Yesterday, a former reservist soldier described his struggle to be diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and to get financial support.

Lance Sergeant Jake Wood, 39, left his job as a business analyst for an investment bank to serve two tours of Iraq and one of Afghanistan.

He admitted: ‘In Iraq, I shoved my pistol into my throat. I wanted to “check out”. Only my fears for my family stopped me. On the same tour, in 2004, a local kid pointed a weapon at me and I was so depressed I actually wanted him to shoot me.
Warning: Former Army Colonel Bob Stewart, MP for Beckenham, Kent, said manpower cuts could trigger more cases of mental ill-health

Warning: Former Army Colonel Bob Stewart, MP for Beckenham, Kent, said manpower cuts could trigger more cases of mental ill-health

‘I went to Afghanistan in 2009 and my mental and emotional health got worse. I saw my mates die and we were outnumbered by the Taliban every day.

‘It wasn’t until December 2010 that I got the package of treatment and compensation I need. Getting help and support can be very difficult. I needed really good doctors and lawyers. The Ministry of Defence fought the case.’

L/Sgt Wood now receives 75 per cent of his salary at the time of his mobilisation.

The Army is committed to cutting 20,000 soldiers before 2018. Many of those made redundant will be veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq and their places on the frontline are expected to be filled by reservists such as L/Sgt Wood. Military charity Combat Stress warned that more must be done to support reservists’ mental health.

Andrew Cameron, the chief executive of Combat Stress, said: ‘Reservists are more likely to suffer post-traumatic stress than regular counterparts because they spent less time among their peers and must switch between the military and civilian communities quickly and regularly.

‘It is very important as we increase our reliance on reservists that these men and women are properly prepared and supported. This means before, during and after their deployments. Combat Stress has created two liaison officers to work specifically with reservists to ensure they receive the support they require.’

The manpower cuts could trigger more cases of mental ill-health, according to former Army Colonel Bob Stewart, MP for Beckenham, Kent. He said last night: ‘Soldiers want to be treated among their own. They always have done and they always will.

Today’s problems seem to be obvious and as more soldiers leave the regimental system and find themselves in civilian life they will not have their friends close at hand.

‘Only they really appreciate the difficulties of spending so long on the frontline.’

The MoD said: ‘The mental health of service personnel is a top priority and we have robust systems in place to identify and treat those with mental health issues.

'We are also committed to reducing the stigma associated with mental illness such as through briefing Service personnel, their families and the chain of command.’

Source: Daily Mail