As traumatic images and reports from Afghanistan continue to take prominence across news and social media, the UK veteran community face a period of re-traumatising and the possibility of having conditions such as PTSD triggered or made worse. What support is there for veterans whose mental health could be very susceptible to decline during this period?
Speaking to the BBC, Jeff Harrison, the interim chief executive of veteran charity, Combat Stress, said they are “very concerned” and that “every time you turn on the television and every time you pick up a newspaper, Afghanistan is what you see, for those veterans, it’s just restarting those memories for them again, so that causes a problem.”
Calls to charity, Combat Stress have more than doubled in light of Taliban take-over of Afghanistan
In a considered and heartfelt speech to the House of Commons, Conservative MP and veteran himself Tom Tugendhat spoke about how the images from Afghanistan and the knowledge that the country had been abandoned was causing many veterans to feel “anger, grief and rage”.
PTSD and ‘moral injury’
Mr Harrison from Combat Stress also told the BBC that as well as symptoms of trauma and PTSD being exacerbated by the news around Afghanistan, veterans face something called ‘moral injury’ where their reasoning behind their military presence in a country to fight on behalf of the UK, the ethical and “worthwhile” reasoning all comes into question.
“And they look now at what’s happening, about people just pulling out effectively overnight, and they just wonder what it was all for, was it just a futile effort.”
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In the same emergency House of Commons session, Health Secretary, Sajid Javid confirmed that the government is “urgently looking” into the immediate and necessary support for veteran mental health, especially for those who served in Afghanistan. Acting swiftly in light of the horrendous impact that the crisis will have on all UK veterans, will be a test for the new Health Secretary in just how much he lives up to his word.
Another reminder for the government to increase funding to charitable organisations that provide specialist support
With the NHS more under strain than it ever has been before, especially in mental health care this is another reminder of just how important third sector and charitable organisations that provide specialist help are. In this period of strain on the NHS, more government funding is desperately needed for charities such as Combat Stress, who personally rely on about 75% of their funding to come from charitable donations.
In a statement on their website, Combat Stress urged any and all military personnel, past and present to get in touch if “your threat dial is up, you feel on high alert or ‘sparking’, or you notice your anxiety levels feel high right now, this can have a negative impact on your mental health.”
Combat Stress provide a 24-hour Helpline which is free to call and confidential on 0800 138 1619. You can also text them on 07537173683 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. Their website also provides ‘self-help guides’ for things like PTSD, anxiety, depression, anger and grief that you can read about here.