Support for military personnel with PTSD
Serving as a member of the military requires courage and skill. It also requires resilience in difficult circumstances. However, there are risks that military personnel face that go beyond the physical scars caused by working in warzones. There can be lasting repercussions on their mental health, too.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a battle many military personnel face. For veterans, it’s important that they know how to access support after they leave military service behind. Here, we look at what PTSD is and what support is available for those who have returned from service.
What is PTSD?
PTSD occurs after a severe trauma or a life-threatening event. It doesn’t just apply to those who’ve served in the military, but it’s a mental health condition that goes hand in hand with the experiences of those who’ve worked in a military setting.
In fact, PTSD was originally referred to as ‘shell shock’ or, more recently, ‘combat stress’. It's normal for the mind and body to go into shock, but this response becomes PTSD when a person’s nervous system becomes immobilised, or suck.
Military PTSD: unique stressors
There are unique stressors encountered during military service and these can range from direct combat experiences to the toll of deployment trauma and the mental strain of witnessing or experiencing life-threatening situations.
While not everyone in the military is affected by mental health concerns, there is a possibility that the conditions military workers operate in has an impact on their overall wellbeing.
Some of the contributing factors that can contribute to PTSD include:
- Working in stressful situations
Training might prepare personnel for active service, but the reality of operating in warzones is very different. There can be a delayed impact, when military staff only see the impact of what they experienced after they have left the forces.
- Being away from family and friends
Spending time with family or socialising with friends isn’t possible. This disconnection can affect a person’s mental wellbeing.
- Physical injuries
There is a risk of being injured while in service. Physical injuries can have a lasting impact on a person’s wellbeing and veterans who have been injured may find they face challenges in terms of their mental wellbeing as a result.
- Transitioning into civilian life
Returning to the everyday after being in service can be difficult. The conditioning that comes with military life can take some time to adjust to. Some people find this adjustment hard.
These factors can all mean that PTSD, depression and anxiety are common among ex-military workers.
The enduring impact of military PTSD spans the physical, mental, and emotional. It can manifest in different ways. Symptoms can include, flashbacks, nightmares, repetitive sensations and physical sensations, such as pain, sweating, feeling sick or trembling.
Additionally, those with PTSD could face challenges in memory, concentration, and the ability to reintegrate into civilian life. This lasting impact underscores the importance of comprehensive support for military personnel navigating the path to recovery.
There are triggers, too. Veterans may seem to be coping, but there may be something that happens that sets off symptoms, such as the war in Ukraine.
What support is available?
UK veterans are entitled to comprehensive healthcare services through the NHS. Veterans receive priority access to specialised care.
Additionally, pilot schemes are being introduced such as the Defence Medical Welfare Service in Northern Ireland. These schemes are designed to help veterans with their physical and mental health.
Many veterans dealing with PTSD also face financial and legal challenges. Money worries can have a significant effect on our mental wellbeing, and this is compounded if there are additional issues such as PTSD.
Recognising this, the UK government offers disability benefits and compensation for those affected. However, the process can be complicated, prompting the need for specialist military solicitors who understand the complexities of PTSD-related legal issues. These legal professionals not only assist in navigating convoluted processes but also advocate for the rights of individuals dealing with PTSD.
Psychological and emotional support
Acknowledging the invisible wounds of military PTSD means that a multifaceted approach to psychological and emotional support is essential. Counselling, therapy, and psychiatric care are readily available for military personnel seeking assistance.
Evidence-based treatments such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing have shown effectiveness in managing and overcoming PTSD symptoms. Plus, community and peer support play a pivotal role in the healing process. Veteran support groups, community outreach programmes, and mentorship initiatives create a network of understanding, creating a sense of belonging among those who have served.
If you or a loved one has recently left military service and you think you might have PTSD, there is support available.