Figures have shown a sharp increase in the proportion of British war veterans seeking mental help. In the last year, the number of veterans applying for help for mental health problems after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan has increased by more than 25%.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a condition characterised by a psychological response to immensely traumatic events, such as near-death experiences. The condition, which was previously known as ‘shell shock’ and ‘war neurosis’, was first termed PTSD in the 1980s.
The symptoms fall into three main categories: re-experiencing, avoidance and hyper-arousal. In the first case, patients will relive the traumatic event through intrusive memories, nightmares or flashbacks. These are usually accompanied by tension, sweating or palpitations. The second category describes an avoidance of thoughts and feelings related to the traumatic event. This can lead to avoidance behaviour, social detachment and emotional numbness, among other things. The final category presents symptoms such as irritability, aggressiveness, difficulty concentrating or falling/staying asleep and remaining constantly alert and watchful.
The most common problem associated with PTSD is depression, and often substance abuse. Many veterans receive treatment from the NHS, though the standard of care varies across the country. The charity Combat Stress is working together with the MoD and the Department of Health to strengthen NHS provision in areas with a large population of veterans.