Initiatives like last week’s World Mental Health Day encourage us all to focus on our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. They’re useful prods to remind us of an important, and universal, topic that affects us all.
It’s one day in the awareness calendar. But my work brings me in to contact with a group of people who face an everyday mental health challenge.
As Head of the Military team at Hugh James, I work closely with veterans and active military personnel. I see many cases of those who have dedicated their lives to the service of our country dealing with scars which cannot be seen.
Given the nature of the job, it’s not surprising that witnessing the horrors of conflict can leave its mark. But while it’s normal for your mind and body to be in shock after such events, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is different. The normal stress response becomes PTSD when the nervous system gets “stuck.”
I’ve written in detail about PTSD and the armed forces before – the signs, the rise in cases and the available support. What’s really worrying is that the environment we’re all living in right now, through COVID-19, is making things even tougher for our service men and women living with PTSD – especially those who haven’t had the support and assistance they need and deserve.
Many veterans struggle to return to civilian life at the best of times. But it’s particularly difficult for those with PTSD. They find it hard to integrate – being in public areas, crowded spaces, looking for work. Now, dealing with the loneliness and isolation of COVID-19 restrictions and the economic impact on jobs and health worries will be adding to an already intolerable burden.
Civilian life can be a struggle and such a contrast to the life lived when in active service. Often, military victims of PTSD may not be aware of the help that’s out there – and the redress available to them if they were failed by a system that should have supported them.
Not all veterans suffer with PTSD. However, the Government has a legal and moral duty to look after those that do and ensure they are identified and given the support they need. It’s the least veterans should expect in return for the service they give to our country.
There is expert help and advice out there to ensure that those with PTSD don’t have to suffer alone.