As a member of a family who lost someone as a consequence of the Afghanistan conflict, the news of the end of British soldiers being sent there came as welcome news – and no doubt a wave of relief for those with family members serving as part of the British forces.
However, the legacy left by Afghanistan is not just the ongoing treatment of burns soldiers and amputees but the mental scars suffered by those who put themselves in the frontline of British conflicts.
They serve our country, take enemy bullets and stand between us and the Taliban; but what happens when they leave the military life with the post-traumatic stress disorders and other mental health conditions such as depression that are brought out by their sacrifice?
“What happens when they leave the military life with the post-traumatic stress disorders?”
They are discharged from the army’s mental health services into the arms of the NHS; an already struggling service with only roughly 10% of the NHS budget and totally unprepared for the specialist treatment that is needed when exited the military and the ongoing treatment that is needed.
In 2013, the Daily Mirror reported one in 10 homeless persons in the UK were ex-servicemen or women, many of them suffering with PTSD which often leads to self-medicating through drug abuse and alcoholism that leaves their families torn apart.
I have also often met them as inpatients in psychiatric hospitals.
Charities such as Help for Heroes offer their support to families, support that should be offered by the NHS services but you will seldom find any community mental health teams offering specific care related to war-related mental distress.
“You will seldom find any community mental health teams offering specific care related to war-related mental distress”
The NHS and the MOD must take responsibility for the safe and efficient transition of competent care for those we ask to die for us but then we throw aside like used toy soldiers. Too often I hear of soldiers being discharged from the army and simply left to their own ends and care in civilian life and allowed to mentally deteriorate out of the institutionalisation of the military.
Is this what our veterans deserve?
Helena King is in her 2nd year of studying mental health nursing at London Southbank University and works with the CQC; she has also been a service user for seven years