The UK’s leading mental health charity for military veterans has reported a fourfold increase in the number of former services personnel seeking help for mental health issues in the past two decades.
Combat Stress, which offers residential and community-based advice and treatment for veterans suffering from a range of mental health conditions, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety, carried out a study that was the first of its kind in the UK. The charity looked at the patterns of referrals to its treatment centres over the past 20 years and discovered that it was receiving almost four times’ as many veteran referrals in 2014 as it did in 1994.
In 1994, the charity received 588 referrals, compared to 2,163 in 2014. During the 20-year period there were a total of 21,651 referrals. Veterans had served in a number of theatres, including Northern Ireland, the Falklands, the first Gulf War, Afghanistan and Iraq. The steepest increase in demand for treatment came from those who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The report also revealed that veterans were now seeking help a lot sooner. The delay before veterans sought help had fallen by more than 50%, which is in part due to an increased awareness of mental health issues in the media and amongst the public.
Dr Walter Busuttil, Director of Medical Services at Combat Stress, said: “It is very positive to see ex-Service men and women are coming forward sooner to access support for mental health conditions. However, stigma still surrounds mental illness which is leading to delays in help-seeking. There is much that remains to be done to reduce stigma around mental illness, so that Veterans reach out for the help they need sooner rather than later.”