Mental Health of UK Veterans
Despite military people being being selected, trained and well-used to self-discipline and responsibility:
- Depression, anxiety disorders and substance misuse affect around 30% of the serving military population (Iversen et al, 2009). (The UK average is 25% including more women than men.)
- Veterans are significantly more likely than the civilian population to develop a delayed form of PTSD (Andrews et al, 2007).
- A comparably higher percentage of veterans than civilians have records of substance abuse, addictions and consequent offending – forensic addictions.
Making comparisons with the mental health statistics of the civilian population is disingenuous; in that military people have been carefully selected and trained for physical and mental resilience. Their incidence of mental health problems should be very much less than the general civilian population. The reality indicates some similarities, and worse figures in other problem areas like alcohol and drug abuse, certain types of crime, and PTSD combined with mild traumatic brain injury.
Plus there is a marked tendency for veterans to suffer from the damaging effects of loneliness. This in itself suggests a major problem. Veterans have been trained to socialise at a very highly engaged level,so we need to understand why this fails so dramatically in noticeably significant numbers.
In addition, many more older veterans from WW2, the Korean War, and more recent insurgent campaigns like Aden, the Mau Mau in Kenya, Indonesia and Malaya and Northern Ireland are now experiencing distress as a result of their military experiences, possibly as aging makes them less resilient, which often goes unrecognised and untreated.