Mental Health Challenges That Veterans Face
Just because you’ve left the battlefield, doesn’t mean that the war is over
Working within the Armed Forces throws ordinary people into extraordinary scenarios. Over the years that we spend in service, we are given thorough training and coaching in how to cope with moments of crisis – but sometimes the heaviest times can occur to us after we’ve left the war zone.
These are 4 of the mental challenges that Veterans face upon leaving the Forces:
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder [PTSD]
PTSD is a condition that can affect anyone – from active servicemen to those no longer serving.
Since it’s initial discovery in the wake of the First World War (labelled as ‘shellshock’), there have been a number of myths and false ideas propagated about the condition. Chief of these is the notion that you can only suffer from PTSD if you have seen combat. Movie cliches have done little to help the case of those suffering from the condition, as people often consider PTSD sufferers to be unhinged or unpredictable in some way.
For more info on PTSD and how to find help, visit CombatStress.
Although it’s fair to say that you can reach some euphoric highs, whilst working in the forces, you can also open yourself up to some crushing lows.
It’s nigh on impossible to make it through a full military service without encountering some form of tragedy or loss that will mark you permanently. Whether it’s the death of a comrade or witnessing the breakdown of a squad – these personal events can weigh heavily on the mind and cause prolonged periods of depression. This can manifest itself in many ways, and, at first, may not seem that obvious. Symptoms can range from a feeling of hopelessness to suicidal thoughts and can be hard for sufferers to communicate.
The NHS has a detailed breakdown of depression here.
Although clinically diagnosed Anxiety is often overlooked as a mental condition among those in the forces, it can be a debilitating condition that can ruin lives.
We are all familar with feelings of anxiousness, these occur from time to time – during periods of stress and hardship. Within the armed forces these moments can occur on a daily basis. However, it’s when these feelings – akin to the fight-or-flight response – start to encroach on everyday life that Anxiety can be seen as seriously effecting someone. Sufferers can find themselves worrying about things that are simply out of their control, or even worrying about worrying itself.
Anxiety is a condition that should be faced head on – Mind is the leading UK charity for Mental Health that can help the best.
Dependency on alcohol, drugs, or even prescription medicine, can often be the result of leaving any of the above conditions untreated.
Men and women in the Forces can sometime have a tempestuous relationship with alcohol. Prolonged periods of abstinence are often followed by intense binge drinking nights out, or all weekenders, that often leave the body (and bank account!) exhausted. When we have to rejoin civilian life, it becomes all to easy to see every day as an opportunity to drink – this is when damaging habits begin to get formed. Depression and anxiety can often lead to experimentation with illicit drugs as well, which carry legal and health ramifications.
Action on Addiction is the most active charitable fund working with drug abuse, you can also consult Talk To Frank for some straight-forward advice on drug abuse.