Northamptonshire veterans seeking mental health support more quickly

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New research has shown there has been a dramatic fall in the time taken for Northamptonshire veterans to seek mental health support.

The national research has shown that veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are seeking help for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other mental illnesses far sooner than veterans of earlier wars. This new information is being released ahead of a BBC Panorama special on military mental health due to air at 9pm on Monday, July 15.

In the first evaluation of former troops from those two conflicts being treated by veterans’ mental health charity Combat Stress, the time lag between them leaving the armed forces and seeking help averaged two years.

This contrasts sharply with the previous average time lag of 14 years for veterans of other conflicts.

Combat Stress is currently treating over 5,200 veterans nationally who suffer from psychological injuries as a result of their military careers. In Northamptonshire Combat Stress supports 12 veterans who served in Iraq and 12 who served in Afghanistan.

The report argues that the dramatic fall in the time it takes veterans to seek help may be the result of the armed forces’ efforts to de-stigmatise mental health and also through Combat Stress raising its profile.

However, the report also reveals that only five per cent of referrals came via a GP. As the new study notes, this suggests either that veterans are unwilling to tell their GPs about their mental health problems or that GPs may not be sufficiently aware of Combat Stress’ services.

Combat Stress chief executive Andrew Cameron said: “These figures are a sign of success, but also a warning to be vigilant. Psychological injuries are just as likely as physical injuries, and it is good that there appears to be less stigma and Veterans have the confidence to seek help sooner.

“However, veterans need to feel able to tell their GP if they think they need mental health services. This is why we have worked with the Royal College of GPs to produce a toolkit to help GPs spot the signs of trauma-related mental ill-health in this very deserving group.”