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Mental health cases among veterans double

Wednesday 25th July 2018
The Iraq and Afghanistan wars may have contributed to a large increase in the number of mental health cases among British military personnel.
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The number of military veterans seeking help with mental health problems has doubled in the last decade, a new report by the House of Commons Defence Committee has revealed. 

Official data has revealed that 3.1 per cent of current serving military personnel have been diagnosed with mental health problems, double the level in 2008-09. 

A notable factor in the rise has been the prominence of conditions among those who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Other groups at high risk included females, personnel aged under 18 and those who leave early.

Moreover, the committee said it is possible that the real levels of mental illness such as post traumatic stress disorder or depression among service personnel may be three times as high. 

Committee chair Julian Lewis warned against concluding that mental illness was a normal consequence of military service, saying: "Contrary to public perception, most servicemen and women leave with no mental ill-health and, to help veterans, we need to dispel the myth that many suffer psychological harm."

However, he added, the Ministry of Defence does need to do more to ensure those who have issues are given the level of help and support promised in the Armed Forces Covenant.

"At the moment they are not, and we shall examine the situation in more detail in our follow-up inquiry," he concluded. 

The problem with assuming that mental health problems are the norm for veterans is that this adds to the stigma associated with the issues they face, the committee stated, declaring such ideas "not just wrong but harmful".

While many of those who have seen service in recent years have suffered mental health issues because of it, there may be other veterans with problems that are not a result of their time in the forces. 

A prime example may be that of Prince Harry, who served in Afghanistan. He has publicly admitted to having mental health issues, but said these were related to his attempts to come to terms with losing his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, when he was 12.

Written by Angela Newbury

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