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Why We Must Do More Than Remember This Sunday

11/11/2016 16:10

For many of us Remembrance Sunday is about reflecting on events which have passed and showing our gratitude to those who we can never thank in person. As the nation falls silent to remember servicemen and women - whether historically at the Somme or in Normandy, or more recently in Fallujuh or Helmand Province, we must also spare a thought for those who experience the psychological impact from their military service.

For many such veterans - those who fought in the Falklands, Iraq or Afghanistan, or were deployed on humanitarian missions in Bosnia, Sierra Leone and elsewhere - a small but significant minority have been affected by mental illness.

Thankfully, the understanding of and treatments for military mental health conditions has advanced greatly in recent years. The servicemen who suffered from 'shell shock' during the First World War would scarcely believe the range of clinically effective rehabilitative treatments now available.

Yet whilst there has been a great advancement in the treatment and support services available, there is one area we must all do more to focus our efforts on - reducing the stigma which so often prevents those in the military community from seeking the mental health support they need and deserve.

Positive progress has been made. Over recent years, campaigns run by Combat Stress and the Ministry of Defence have made significant inroads into reducing stigma. Whilst these have proved effective in getting Iraq and Afghanistan veterans to seek support sooner - an average of four and two years after leaving the Armed Forces respectively - the typical delay in help seeking is 12 years for veterans of other conflicts. To put this in perspective, each year hundreds of Northern Ireland and Falklands veterans seek mental health help for the first time having suffered in silence for decades.

As we mark this Remembrance Sunday we must pause to remember not just those who we have lost, but those who remain and still need our support. Let us use this period of reflection to recognise the service of all our veterans, whenever and wherever they have served, to encourage those who are affected by the trauma they experienced as a result of their service to seek the help they need for a brighter tomorrow.

Combat Stress' 24-hour helpline provides free, confidential mental health advice and support for veterans and their families. If you or a loved one needs support, please call 0800 138 1619 or text 07537 404 719. Find our more at www.combatstress.org.uk

Photo: © RLeaHairHRP

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