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Complexities of PTSD within Armed Forces


Wednesday, April 8th, 2009 Complexities of PTSD within Armed Forces

A very topical report from Alexi Mostrous of the Times (28 03 09) and the complexities surrounding veterans with mental health issues.

It is understood that it is very difficult to equate how many service personnel and veterans suffer from mental disorders. According to Ian Palmer, a former lieutenant-colonel and now the Ministry of Defence’s civilian expert on veterans’ mental health, recently admitted: “We have no idea of the size or scale of the problem.”

Essentially, this is because many of the service personnel only see a doctor long after the specific event of trauma. Furthermore it has also been suggested that the British stiff upper lip is very much a hindrance in seeking help.

Moreover, the facts are clear that inexcess of 4,000 new mental disorders are diagnosed within the armed forces. More specifically 180 service personnel are identified each year as having developed PTSD. Hitherto, the rates of mental disorders among members that have served in both Iraq or Afghanistan are higher than those that did not. With reference to American studies, their findings suggest that based on information from 2006 up to 19 per cent of US troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan had symptoms of PTSD.

However the British dogma fundamentally believes that the deployment of troops to a war zone does not significantly increase the chances of going on to develop mental illness. Indeed according to a study carried out by King’s Centre for Military Health, their findings indicated that only 4% of those fighting in the 2003 Iraqi invasion had PTSD.

Professor Simon Wessely, the groups head says that it is plausible that there is a clear link between deployment and mental illness.

In contrast according to an article by Michael Evans, Defence Editor of the Times ( 28 03 09) indicates that there is a sudden spike in suspected suicides among British service personnel serving in Basra.

It has been suggested that the soldiers concerned have taken their own lives between December of last year and February, the reasons being a mystery.

Allowing for the fact that operational pressures have been significantly reduced to the extent that the majority were spending 60% of their tour on ‘downtime’ which essentially means relaxing in the camp airbase.

Nevertheless an investigation was carried out to determine the reasons for the deaths and a common thread emerged that the amount of time the soldiers had on their hands contributed towards their personal mental health problems.

It has been suggested that more veterans are seeking help. Charities such as combat stress are being inundated with new referrals.

To summarise, health professionals will agree that the demand for mental health care is very much out pacing the supply.

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