Rise in Afghanistan veterans seeking mental health support

Figures from the veterans’ health charity Combat Stress suggest there has been a “substantial” increase in the number of Afghanistan veterans seeking mental health support.

Between 2012 and 2013, the charity reported a 57% increase in Afghanistan veterans seeking its support, receiving 358 new referrals in 2013 compared to 228 in 2012.

The charity, celebrating its 95th anniversary this year, has a caseload of more than 660 Afghanistan veterans, it added. With troops withdrawing from all but two bases in Afghanistan’s Helmand province in March this year, this number is likely to continue to increase, it predicted.

On average, veterans used to wait 13 years after leaving service before seeking their help, but this had fallen to an average of 18 months for Afghanistan veterans, it said.

Commodore Andrew Cameron, chief executive of Combat Stress, said: “A small, yet significant number of veterans who serve in the armed forces each year continue to relive the horrors they experienced on the frontline. Day in, day out, they battle these hidden psychological wounds, often tearing families apart in the process.”

Separately, the British Psychological Society’s annual conference has highlighted research arguing that sending injured armed forces personnel to participate in residential sports courses could aid and speed up their recovery.

A team at Leeds Metropolitan University assessed 459 UK armed forces personnel who had been wounded in battle, injured in another way or who had a mental or physical illness.

Each one went on a five-day course, during which they participated in activities such as wheelchair basketball, volleyball, rock climbing and kayaking in small groups alongside tutors. When quizzed on their mental wellbeing before and after the course, it was found that autonomy, competence and relatedness to the surrounding environment were all significantly boosted following the stay.

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