More Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are seeking mental health support

Soldiers from the The Royal Welch Fusiliers in Iraq
Veterans are suffering PTSD - Getty

The number of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans seeking mental health support has risen by more than 40 per cent in three years, a charity has found.

Combat Stress, the veterans’ mental health charity, has revealed it has experienced a 44 percent surge in veterans seeking treatment for mental health conditions, including complex post-traumatic stress disorder since 2020.

The charity added that new referrals had increased year-on-year since 2021.

According to the findings the charity received 776 new veteran referrals since 2023 in the year to date, while between 2022 and 2023 677 new ex-service personnel were referred for help.

This was up from 672 in 2021 and 2022, and again up from 539 new referrals in 2020 and 2021.

The new findings have led to Sir General Peter Wall, a former British Army head, and other Senior Military Commanders to write an open letter on Veteran Mental Health.

Sir Peter, the president of Combat Stress, said: “Military service is vital for the country and it’s a highly rewarding and commendable career.

However, a small minority of those who serve are left with complex mental health challenges. It’s our responsibility as a nation to ensure specialist treatment and support is available to veterans so they can recover as soon as possible - to do otherwise is utterly negligent.”

The charity’s finding come as a poll by YouGov found the majority of the public believe veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts who require help for PTSD will have completed their PTSD treatment by 2024, whilst just 6.8 percent believe veterans will wait more than 10-years before seeking mental health treatment.

In contrast, Combat Stress has found that veterans seek treatment for complex PTSD on average 13 years after leaving the military.

Professor Walter Busuttil, Consultant Psychiatrist and Director of Research at Combat Stress, said: “Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a severe mental health condition that can have a huge impact, causing veterans to relive the trauma they’ve experienced so often that they can find it hard to function in civilian life.

“At the very point when we need the public’s support more than ever, our findings show they are largely unaware of the growing scale of the issue. More awareness is needed when it comes to veterans’ mental health.”

Simon Stanley served in the Army for 10 years, including a tour of Iraq in 2003.

He was made redundant in 2013 and began to struggle with his mental health before seeking help from Combat Stress for PTSD treatment in 2022.

He said: “The sessions were brilliant. We unpacked all the trauma in my life and that’s when I started to realise what was wrong.

“The first thing my therapist did was a ‘real or not real’ grounding scenario. If I hear a sound, for example my son bouncing a rubber ball, to me it sounded like a cannon firing on an armoured vehicle.

“A crisp packet wrapper rattling was a radio crackling, and I was taken back to a threatening environment where I had to be hyper-vigilant.

“That grounding technique was really helpful for me.”

Mr Stanley added that the treatment has helped him “move forward”

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