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Daily Telegraph Readers Help Servicemen Combat Stress

Monday, March 23rd, 2009 Daily Telegraph Readers Help Servicemen Combat Stress

An article by Cassandra Jardine of the Telegraph (19 03 09) reports on the generosity of the said newspapers readers in relation to our service personnel and funds to assist in the relief of mental health issues they are faced with.

Inexcess as an organisation have covered many issues from drug addiction to violent crime that soldiers are dealing with and the very lack of support they also have to endure. Moreover, three weeks ago Lance Corporal Johnson Beharry, 29, Britain’s youngest holder of the Victoria Cross, joined those calling for better treatment of the psychologically wounded. Inexcess covered this story and we are pleased other forces are coming together to highlight the plight of our heroes.

In addition, Lance Corporal Johnson Beharry describes the dreadful flashbacks, sleepless nights and irrational rages that still plague him.If someone rams his trolley in Tesco his adrenaline surges to dangerous levels. Beharry accused the Government of failing “disgracefully” to care for those it sends into danger. General Sir Michael Jackson, Colonel Tim Collins and other senior military figures have also joined him in demanding that more is done for combatants returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Demand for the charity is increasing. Over the past three years demand has risen by 53 per cent. Last year 1,200 new cases were presented to Combat Stress. Watt has seen dramatic progress since he joined the Welsh Guards in 1972. “PTSD and depression are now much better understood. The great change is that there is now no stigma.”

It is acknowledged that many from the Falklands and Northern Ireland have needed psychiatric help.

Furthemore it can take up to 10 to 14 years for people to come forward; often they only do so after their lives have fallen apart.

The charity’s president, General Sir Charles Redmond Watt will be given a cheque for £30,000 from the Telegraph readers and he says that he is deeply grateful for the readers appreciation for the work carried out by the forces., “”This money,” he says, “will help us do more for traumatised ex-combatants and their families.”"This money,” he says, “will help us do more for traumatised ex-combatants and their families.”

Depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among ex-servicemen and women lead to divorce, homelessness, excessive drinking and drug use. Nine per cent of our prison population – some 8,500 people – is made up of former combatants. They are also three times more likely to commit suicide than civilians. But while Watt commends Beharry for speaking about his experiences – “He is the bravest of the brave” – he does not share the conclusions of the shriller voices.

“There is no point being angry. We have to cope with this situation. We owe it to our soldiers to help them and Combat Stress is well placed to do so. It is the only charity working in this field and many of our clients have told me that they would not be alive if it wasn’t for Combat Stress. Until now, we have been able to meet demand. The issue is how many more people we can help.”

It is understood that the more people who come forward, the thinner resources will be stretched. At present, only half the charity’s budget is met by the Ministry of Defence, leaving £3-4 million a year to be raised from the public. Former soldiers such as Robert Lawrence, the hero of Tumbledown in the Falklands War, do what they can: this July he is helping to organise a group of ex-servicepeople climb the Matterhorn to raise money.

Indeed many have suggested if the charity is necessary at all. General Sir Richard Dannatt, head of the Army, is calling for priority treatment for ex-service personnel in the NHS. Others demand a specialist service, akin to the US Department of Veterans’ Affairs. Watt does not think that’s the answer. “It is right that we should look around the world for best practice, but America and this country are culturally very different, I know, I have an American wife.

In this country, we have an NHS and a tradition of charities helping: that’s how we do it and it works well. The Armed Forces aren’t big enough to have their own facilities and enough highly qualified staff to meet clinical governance standards. The way ahead is to get everyone,the MoD, the NHS and Combat Stress - working together.”

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