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Psychological Injuries: The Military and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

(image) Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is both a psychological and physical condition which can arise due to frightening or extremely distressing events. It is a common condition and according to NHS statistics it affects around 5% of men and 10% of women at some point in their life.

In every day life anyone can go through an experience that is frightening or overwhelming. Military personnel however, are at much of a high risk of encountering such experiences.

Of particular vulnerability are our soldiers in Afghanistan. Imagine the horrors that they have encountered – it is no wonder that, according to research carried out by the Journal of Traumatic Stress, as many as 46% of war veterans experience suicidal thoughts.

In fact, it seems the problem is much worse than has been documented in the press, with the military keen to keep the extent of the problem quiet. Ex-paratrooper Bob Paxman has been one of the few to step up and explain the degree to which soldiers are suffering. He told Sky News that “The military have got a massive problem on their hands and they haven’t yet faced up to it.” Paxman, 41, who served in the SAS for 11 years up until 2000, has set up a charity to try and help those suffering and describes some of the symptoms that may manifest in troops in order for them to cope with the rigours of combat. These include flashbacks, nightmares, depression and self-medication through drugs or alcohol.

The effects of soldiers’ encounters with bloodshed and traumatic events are sometimes not immediately obvious. Indeed, PTSD symptoms sometimes take up to 6 months to appear after a traumatic event and symptoms may include:

  • Reliving aspects of the trauma
  • Avoiding certain memories
  • Being alert or ‘on guard’ – you may find you just can’t relax

These are just some of the main symptoms and others include irregular heartbeat, sleep problems and even panic attacks. These injuries can be long lasting and can affect sufferers’ lives for years.

Mr Paxman has described his own difficulty in coping with post traumatic stress, stating he once downed a bottle of whisky while depressed then put a loaded pistol in his mouth.

If you believe you may be suffering from PTSD then there are treatments available which should help you to deal with what you have seen. These include:

  • Psychotherapy
  • Medication
  • Body focussed therapies

Other ways which can help you in dealing with what you have experienced include:

  • Trying to get back into a normal routine when at home
  • Talking about what happened to someone you trust
  • Relaxation exercises
  • Eating and exercising regularly
  • Taking time to be with family and friends
  • Speaking to a doctor and other medical professionals

Many news stories often talk about how former soldiers feel let down by the lack of help they have received in dealing with the mental scars of war and soldiers believe that they should be compensated for mental injuries in much the same way as people are compensated for physical injuries.  Fortunately, compensation claims can be brought for PSTD as a standalone claim, with numbers of soldiers bringing successful claims after suffering psychological damage from warfare.

It appears clear that soldiers are not getting the support required from the Ministry of Defence, with claims that the support system and counselling regimes in place are outdated and based on 1960s models. Also, counselling personnel isn’t vast enough to support the increasing numbers of troops who are suffering from the disorder.

These military individuals put their minds and bodies on the line everyday in an effort to maintain democracy and freedom, to bring order to countries in turmoil such as Afghanistan. Based on the huge sacrifices that our troops make every day, surely it is not too much to afford them modern counselling and therapy to help them deal with the atrocities that they have to see on a daily basis?

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