Understanding PTSD in UK Veterans

Posted on 22 February 2024

Before we take a dive into Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, we have to first understand what PTSD is:

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that can develop after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event.

Military personnel and veterans are particularly vulnerable to PTSD due to the intense levels of pressure and harsh realities they face, such as fearing for their life or seeing others killed and hurt in explosions. The rate of PTSD among UK veterans of all conflicts is estimated to be 7.4%, compared to 4% among the general public.

What are the challenges faced by PTSD among veterans in the UK?

Let’s start off with:

1. Stigma and Misunderstanding:

Stigma and misunderstanding surrounding mental health issues can prevent veterans from seeking help due to fear of judgment. A study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry found that perceptions of mental health related stigma can negatively impact help seeking, particularly in the military. Veterans often encounter stigma and misunderstanding surrounding mental health issues, which can prevent them from seeking help due to fear of judgment. This can be classified as public stigma, internalized stigma, and structural discrimination. Public stigma refers to the negative attitudes and beliefs held by the general public towards individuals with mental health conditions. Internalized stigma refers to the negative beliefs and attitudes that individuals with mental health conditions hold about themselves. Structural discrimination refers to the policies and practices that create barriers to accessing mental health care.

2. Reintegration into Civilian Life:

A veteran may have never looked for, applied for, or interviewed for a civilian job, especially if they had a career in the military. These are new skills they will have to learn and master. In applying for a job, a veteran will have to determine how to translate their military skills and duties into civilian terms and create a CV. A veteran may have never created a CV. Instead of a CV, the military uses a Field Service Record to detail qualifications, training, and experience. Many civilians may not be aware of the unique challenges that separating from military service and returning to civilian life can present. This can make it difficult for veterans to relate to people who do not know or understand what military personnel have experienced.

3. Limited Access to Timely Support:

Long waiting times for mental health services and limited accessibility can hinder veterans from receiving timely support, exacerbating their struggles. According to a report by Help For Heroes on Disability, long waiting lists, lack of information about where to find treatment, long distances to providers, and limited clinic hours can create barriers to getting care. To combat this issue, it is important to advocate for increased funding and resources to improve mental health services for veterans. This can include increasing the number of mental health professionals, reducing waiting times, and improving accessibility to services.

4. Employment and Financial Strain: PTSD can impact a veteran’s ability to maintain employment, leading to financial strain and additional stressors.

In the UK, employers can help their employees with PTSD by ensuring that their workplace is a safe and secure place for people with mental health problems to feel that they can speak out, as well as know they won’t be discriminated against for doing so. The fear of losing one’s job can be as big a worry as the initial problem itself, and won’t help recovery. Employers can help their colleagues by sitting down with them and discussing ways to help them in their work. It is important to work with the person on what they want/need so that the employer is supportive and empathetic, rather than patronizing or overbearing.

5. Isolation and Relationship Strain: Veterans with PTSD may experience social isolation and strained relationships, as the condition can affect their ability to connect with others.

In the UK, there are several resources available for veterans with PTSD who are struggling with social isolation and strained relationships. The NHS provides a range of mental health services, including talking therapies, which can help veterans with PTSD to manage their symptoms and improve their social skills. Combat Stress is a UK-based charity that provides specialist treatment and support to veterans with mental health problems, including PTSD. They offer a range of services, including community outreach, residential treatment, and peer support. The Royal British Legion is another UK-based charity that provides support to veterans and their families, including those who are struggling with social isolation and strained relationships. They offer a range of services, including financial assistance, employment support, and social activities.

In addition, RecruitME interviewed Sarah Harris who is the Regional Fundraising Officer and encourages veterans who are seeking help to get in touch with SSAFA The Armed Forces Charity - Interview with Sarah Harris SSAFA / SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity

6. Raise Awareness and Combat Stigma

To combat the stigma surrounding PTSD, it is essential to raise awareness about the condition and educate people on the realities of the condition. This can be achieved through various means, such as social media campaigns, public service announcements, and educational programs. By increasing awareness, we can help reduce the negative attitudes and beliefs that cause the general public to fear, reject, avoid, and discriminate against people with PTSD.

In addition to awareness campaigns, it is also important to encourage people to share their stories and experiences. This can help break down the barriers of shame and isolation that many people with PTSD feel. By sharing their stories, people with PTSD can help others understand the realities of the condition and reduce the stigma associated with it.

7. Access Mental Health Services

Mental health services are essential for people who are struggling with psychological and behavioural health issues. it is important to increase access to effective treatment and support for people with mental health conditions. This can include therapy, medication, and support groups.

One way to increase access to mental health services is to promote awareness campaigns that educate the public about mental health and the importance of seeking help when needed. This can be achieved through various means, such as social media campaigns, public service announcements, and educational programs.

To conclude, supporting veterans with PTSD requires multiple approaches to raise awareness, accessible services, and gain community involvement. By addressing the challenges they face and providing meaningful support, we can contribute to the well-being and healing of those who have served our country. If you or someone you know is struggling with PTSD, reach out to the appropriate mental health services or support organizations for assistance.

Support Links:

SSAFA | The Armed Forces Charity


Combat Stress

Help For Heroes

Royal British Legion (RBL)

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