Can we do more to support the wellbeing of ex-service personnel?

We have all of us become accustomed to seeing images of war veterans and ex-service personnel affected by war in the Middle East, or similar conflicts around the world; men and women missing limbs, suffering from sight or hearing loss, or wounded beyond recognition have become our advert for war. However, while we feel we may be able to relate to such injuries, albeit it on a superficial level, it is often the wounds we can’t see that hurt the most.

Instances of stress, anxiety, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, are on the rise among ex-service personnel, and it is estimated that one in four homeless people is a former member of the military, too badly affected by the things that they’ve seen to return to the life they once knew, or hold down a regular job. Meanwhile, some 4% of those who served in Afghanistan or Iraq come back with a variation of PTSD, and instances of criminal activity among those who have returned from conflict is startlingly high; are we doing enough to support those affected, or address the underlying issues?

Thankfully, there are those willing to step in and support the men and women returning from conflict, offering counselling and rehabilitation to combat the effects of anxiety and PTSD. Organisations such as PTSD Resolution, Combat Stress and Help for Heroes work tirelessly with ex-service personnel upon their return, but as 40% of those affected still shy away from receiving help, there is evidently a long way to go; it is obvious that a strategy of understanding and nurture is needed, rather than a willingness to brush such symptoms under the carpet. 

What can I do to help?

Many people that have been touched by the stories of returning personnel have gone on to support their recovery by taking frontline roles in counselling services and rehabilitation centres, but there are other ways to help – particularly for those who may be desperate to offer their assistance but don’t know where to turn. Charities such as Help for Heroes are there for serving personnel and veterans, helping them to get the help they so desperately need upon their return to civilian life. As vital as the work of these charities is, it couldn’t occur without the vital support of those who feel powerless to help, and yet are motivated to run marathons, dodge obstacles, leap out of planes, or put themselves through the physical demands of training in order to see somebody else rescued from their own demons. Sponsored sporting events for Help for Heroes, and similar charities, are absolutely integral to the support and rehabilitation of returning military personnel, raising funds and awareness at a time when they are needed most.

While it is obvious that there is a long way to go before we can say that PTSD and related mental health issues are a thing of the past, great leaps are being taken to better support those affected by the horrors of conflict. Suffering in silence should no longer be an option for those who have put their life on hold in the line of duty. What could you do to help?

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