A counsellor has called for mandatory psychological help for ex-servicemen and women who leave the forces, claiming many feel ‘abandoned’.
The woman – who asked to remain anonymous – was inspired to become a counsellor after helping a family member cope with struggles following a traumatic time serving in Afghanistan.
Based in the Worthing area, but working with people from across Sussex in her role, she contacted this newspaper after last week’s coverage of military veteran suicides.
She claimed veterans were often not getting the psychological help they needed and were pigeon-holed into treatments like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) which were not always effective.
She said: “I do feel strongly that we are letting our veterans down. I also think psychological help should be made mandatory on discharge.
“This would not only help protect the veteran but also the community.”
Post-traumatic stress disorder presented itself in many ways, the counsellor – who has worked with veterans and has family members who served in both the Army and Navy – explained.
She questioned, however, whether there was sufficient expertise, experience and training of professionals to provide the specific care veterans needed.
Funding was also an issue, and she said there was little in Sussex specifically tailored to supporting those who had left the forces.
She said counselling was a ‘step’ for those who sought help for mental health issues – but there were many forms as well as CBT, which she said was a common treatment.
“There is also an attitude with the government departments that there is a one-size fits all remedy,” she said.
“It isn’t. We are human beings and we all handle our stress factors completely differently, so you can’t say one person will experience exactly the same problems.”
The counsellor explained she had many veteran friends who had felt ‘abandoned’ upon leaving the military.
She said: “Once they are discharged, they are not then taught to integrate back into society and deal with the horrors they have seen.
“Add to this homelessness, breakdown of families, possible addiction, it’s hardly surprising veterans find it necessary to look for a way out.
“They have given everything they have to their country – but have been abandoned by the people who run it.”
Aside from medical help, the counsellor called on the military to ‘take responsibility’ and ensure it provided the best possible support to those who left the forces.
In December, the NHS said ‘thousands more’ veterans who struggle with civilian life would benefit from expanded NHS services, including mental health support, as part of a long-term plan.
To view all the NHS help available for veterans, visit www.nhs.uk/using-the-nhs/military-healthcare/nhs-mental-health-services-for-veterans
Responding to our call for action last week, the MOD said: “We take the wellbeing of all those who have served extremely seriously and we are currently considering how we can better understand the cohort of veterans who take their own lives.”