Friday, 21 September 2012

Mental issues for military veterans

Mental issues for military veterans
As many as one million military veterans in the UK could be suffering from mental health problems, a leading academic said.

Professor Jamie Hacker Hughes added that the 20% of military veterans who develop mental health problems also face a postcode lottery of treatment.

Many of the UK's five million estimated ex-service personnel do not have access to adequate treatment services, said Prof Hacker Hughes, visiting professor of military psychological therapies at Anglia Ruskin University.

And the problem is growing as an additional 24,000 people leave the Armed Forces each year.
The former head of defence clinical psychology at the MoD said: "There is a postcode lottery as to what service a veteran gets. There are lots of excellent services for veterans but not everyone has access to them. There are large areas of the country where they are no specialist mental health provisions.

"Some might get a very good secondary mental health service, they might get a very good primary service, they might get a service called Veterans' First Point or they might get a service from Combat Stress or they might get nothing."

Prof Hacker Hughes said a number of barriers restrict treatment including veterans not having access to the correct local services.

He said that some may feel that GPs do not understand their military experience, adding that veterans also see mental health problems as shameful and hide their symptoms.

Research released last year shows that only half of those who are experiencing mental health problems sought help from the NHS. Prof Hacker Hughes said that those who did were "rarely" referred to specialist mental health services for ex-service personnel.

Prof Hacker Hughes is calling for equity of services across the board. He said that specialist centres which treat former troops should share their expertise and guide others to replicate their practice.

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