The Mental Health Foundation today called for more to be done to look after the mental health of military veterans.
The charity said it welcomed recent initiatives to expand support for veterans and reduce the stigma of mental illness in the armed forces. But it said support services remained patchy and that several critical issues still needed to be addressed.
In a report published today The Mental Health of Veterans, the MHF warned that younger veterans were at least twice as likely to commit suicide as their contemporaries in civilian life; that the continuing over-representation of veterans in the criminal justice system must be properly investigated; and that the link between alcohol misuse and poor mental health must be prioritised.
Head of policy Simon Lawton-Smith said: “While most members of the forces rejoin civilian life successfully, a significant number will struggle.”
He added: “We can’t carry on with a situation where young veterans are twice as likely to take their own life as their contemporaries and prisons are full of veterans suffering from depression and PTSD [post traumatic stress disorder].”
Among recommendations, the MHF called for resettlement packages to be based entirely upon need and not length of service, as is currently the case.
The most comprehensive support package is only available to those with six or more years’ service and those who are medically discharged with any duration of service. The charity called for a greater understanding of veterans’ needs by health and social care providers and said veterans should be involved in awareness training.
But it added veterans needed to recognise that seeking help was not a sign of weakness.