The Defence Committee has lifted the lid on the mental health myth - Veterans Aid
Responding Julian Lewis MP's article on the recent Defence Committee report into veterans mental health, Hugh Milroy CEO of Veterans Aid responds.
Bravo Julian Lewis - the facts do indeed “tell a different story”. His words vindicate the assertion that Veterans Aid has been making for many years: Military veterans are not linearly damaged by their service. As I head towards my 25th year in dealing with veterans in crisis I am struck by the fact that despite having spoken to thousands of veterans who needed help the presented issues, on closer scrutiny, are nearly all unrelated to military service.
For too long those of us who have tried to counter myths linking service in the Armed Forces to PTSD, as though it was an inevitable consequence, have been vilified. No right-minded individual would deny that some veterans experience mental health issues, or suffer from PTSD as a result of trauma. These men and women should be given the very best care available – as indeed should their civilian counterparts. But to brand all those who have served as singularly susceptible and damaged does them an injustice. As Dr Lewis points out, the most common mental health diagnosis among service personal is depression – something experienced by around a quarter of the UK population.
Perhaps now that others have joined the chorus of protestors about this media-led stereotyping, we can start to more accurately target funding towards those veterans who need it most.
This has to be said: the hero, villain and victim tags routinely attached to veterans, simply don’t help anyone and it is wrong for politicians, the media and elements of the Third Sector to make capital out of them.
It matters, because part of our problem with recruiting for the Armed Forces may be attributable to the portrayal of those who serve as inevitable victims. Hardly an incentive to enlist! Ultimately, those who casually apply such negative tags, or use veterans as marketing tools, could undermine the defence of our nation.
The mental health myth now exposed is but one of many used to assign unique vulnerabilities to veterans.
For example, the number of genuine ex-servicemen and women living on the streets of the UK is tiny - but this doesn't seem to stop almost daily exaggeration and exploitation of the issue.
The Defence Committee has lifted the lid on the mental health myth. I look forward to seeing what steps it now takes to investigate the others!