Man down: retreat, retreat! A soldier fights for their country, protects the nation and is a pioneer towards the realm of personal freedom we live in today and yet many are still left in the dark, isolated by their own thoughts and emotions. To blame is Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Each year families up and down the country have to deal with the harrowing news that their child has died a victim of PTSD. The process of integrating a returning soldier into a fully-fledged civilian can often be a difficult transition. Below are the symptoms and feelings experienced when suffering from PTSD.
There are three defining groupings of symptoms within the mental condition of post-traumatic stress disorder which are as follows:
Re-living past experiences:
- Recollections – For military personnel memories are often evoked from the battlefield, where they relive specific incidents. A racing heart and heavy respiration are also common.
- Nightmares – this can also be from reliving past military experiences. These dreams are often more vivid and extreme than a non-sufferer.
- Distressing thoughts – It is at no surprise that many military veterans take their own lives, which can be a direct consequence of over thinking or having alarming thoughts.
- Loss of interests – Like many forms of depression a loss of interest and activities which were enjoyable to you is a symptom of PTSD.
- Loss of contact – PTSD sufferers often try to disconnect from family and friends to distance themselves and become isolated. A reason for this is so that those who matter to you aren’t affected.
- Emptiness – A sense of emotional numbness, insecurity, lack of fulfilment and a non-existence meaning to life.
- Guilt – Many military veterans feel lost and in turn feel an overwhelming amount of guilt because of this. This is one reason why it is hard to integrate to civilian life.
- Lack of sleep –Sleep can often be a common concern for all but especially for someone with PTSD. This is due to the fact that negative memories whilst sleeping can evoke the recollections talked about previously.
- Easily surprised – This could again be linked to past experiences as well. This can often lead to violent outbursts.
- Feeling tense – Often soldiers can feel constantly pressurised and worried.
The symptoms listed above are an extremely primitive form of how soldiers suffer from PTSD on a regular basis. The disorder that affects the public but in particular the military can ensue during serving in the forces, immediately after or even decades after the event has taken place. An example is the fact that diagnosis are still taken place today for those who fought in the Falklands battle of 1982. Although the general rate of 2.9% of soldiers who are affected is lower than the general public average, the number of cases over the last three years has doubled.
During the past few days I have had the privilege to talk to a former Royal Marine regarding the culture surrounding PTSD. Warrant Officer Class II, Gary Cuthell states: “there are now much better procedures in place to deal with the conditions of mental health”. Mr Cuthell fought in the Falklands war where attention to physical injury was of a good standard. Wounded soldiers would be treated for physiotherapy and attended to with great care ensuring a speedy recovery to the field. In recent years the detection of PTSD has grown and more of an emphasise is taken to improve the quality of care given to mental health conditions.
Suicide rate for Military soldiers and veterans compared to those that died in action.
In the year of 2012 more soldiers and veterans took their own life than were killed in battle, as you can see from the above inforgraphic. With units now moving out of Afghanistan, military veteran G Cuthell further comments: “within big battle, time is on your hands to get the job done, however nowadays there is much more trainning provided with regards to education around PTSD both before and after battle”. This is reinforced by the amount of spending from the MoD as they have supplied £7.4m to safeguard mental health support is in place for soldiers. Some families of fallen soldiers to PTSD think more can be done. One thing however is for sure, that the provision for mental health is increasing and with that so is recognition for post-traumatic stress disorder.