The number of Afghanistan Veterans seeking mental health support has more than doubled in the past year, according to Veterans mental health charity Combat Stress.
The charity has reported a 57% increase in Afghanistan Veterans seeking mental health support from 2012 to 2013. With troops withdrawing from all but two bases in Afghanistan’s Helmand province in March this year, the number of Veterans needing treatment is "likely to continue to increase" according to Combat Stress’ chief executive Commodore Andrew Cameron.
Commodore Cameron, said: “A small, yet significant number of Veterans who serve in the Armed Forces each year continue to relive the horrors they experienced on the frontline. Day in, day out, they battle these hidden psychological wounds, often tearing families apart in the process.”
He added that 20% of Veterans are likely to suffer from mental ill health. “They have faced unique challenges and require – and deserve – specialist support to help them overcome these challenges,” he said.
Challenge to provide continued support
Combat Stress received 358 new Afghanistan Veteran referrals in 2013, compared to 228 in 2012. In all, Combat Stress has a caseload of some 660 Afghanistan Veterans.
Afghanistan Veterans are also more like to seek help: Veterans wait an average of 13 years after leaving the Service before seeking help, but this has fallen to an average of 18 months for those who have served in Afghanistan, according to Combat Stress.
However, Commodore Cameron says the charity faces a real challenge in continuing to provide clinical treatment and support services to those who need it.
“We are planning for services at or above the current level for at least the next five years, and we do not expect to see demand for support tail-off in the near future,” he said.
“We have had great support from the Government and the public over recent years and we simply could not operate without the generosity we have experienced.
“We cannot allow the ex-Service men and women who suffer from the invisible injuries of war to go unnoticed and untreated. This is an unnecessary drain on society and our Veterans and families deserve better.”