If you’re looking for a Christmas gift that’s inspirational and important rather than frothy and fun, you could do worse than take a look at ‘Aftershock: The Untold Story of Surviving Peace’. Written by journalist Matthew Green, who spent time embedded with troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, the book provides an often harrowing account of the difficulties faced by former combatants looking to make the transition to civilian life.
According to the book’s publishers Portobello: “Aftershock looks beyond the labels of shell shock and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to get to the heart of today's post-conflict experience. It pursues the question that the military are so reluctant to ask: why do people who are trained to thrive within the theatre of war so often find themselves ill-prepared for peace?”
Built around a series of interviews with former and serving personnel – including an SAS veteran and a Royal Marine sniper – as well as their families, doctors, therapists and psychiatrists, the book looks at the problems of reintegration through a range of very personal and human stories.
It also examines the faults and failures in the current system when it comes to dealing with former service personnel suffering from the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Veterans’ charity Combat Stress revealed in May that more than 2,000 veterans had sought help for mental trauma over the preceding 12 months – a 26% increase in comparison to the previous year.
MoD figures released following a Freedom of Information Request reveal that the number of Forces personnel suffering from “mental health disorders” had risen from 3,927 in 2011 to 5,076 just two years later. Many commentators and experts feel that these official figures seriously underplay the extent of the problem.
Green says: “It’s not reasonable to expect a charity to provide the whole range of services that we need – the problem is the government has abdicated responsibility to the charity sector.”