Many military careers are ruined unnecessarily by undiagnosed psychological problems.
Advanced medical treatment means many more soldiers now survive battlefield injuries. These very seriously damaged people, especially those injured by blast from improvised explosive devices, artillery shells and bombs, will also suffer brain trauma injuries, as well as psychological trauma.
Also, seemingly uninjured soldiers may also be suffering from brain trauma injury, usually the result of explosions – or from other common combat situations like vehicle accidents.
The Scars of War Foundation was formed to find solutions to these problems; from the various perspectives involved: for military commanders who need cohesive, effective combat units; for Service men and women who don’t want to leave the Forces prematurely, and for over ten million dependents of members of the British Armed Forces.
The military stigma of being seen to be unable to cope with the demands of the battlefield, and the perception that such people are no longer reliable enough to remain in combat roles, leads sufferers to keep problems to themselves. Many leave the Forces before being diagnosed.
First World War battle shock victims were treated according to the mnemonic “PIE”: in the “Proximity” of the front line, “Immediately”, with the “Expectancy” of returning to battle. Most military people today agree that post-combat problems are best dealt with within their combat units, and as far as possible by the soldiers themselves. The current British Forces “TRiM” de-briefing system alerts soldiers to possible problems.
The Kings Centre for Military Health Research KCMHR has already carried out extensive epidemiological research. As our neuroscience research unfolds, we aim to bridge the gap between the trends and correlations they’ve discovered, and what’s actually going on inside soldiers’ brains. As these two lines of research converge, significant discoveries are certain to be made.
The Foundation will utilise its research results, not just to help clinicians develop accurate early diagnostic methods and effective treatments, but also to develop enhanced counselling procedures. As with battlefield first aid, we aim also to develop simple initial actions that can be carried out by unit members, immediately on the front line – in line with the First World War PIE principles. These new procedures will be aimed at minimising the numbers of soldiers needing further treatment, and prevent the development of further problems.