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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Elaine Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Sep 2017 at 8:39am
Soldier stricken with PTSD after examining hundreds of mutilated bodies has been 'abandoned by Army'

Gary Howard spent almost 22 years in the Army but he is now unable to work after falling ill from the stress of witnessing horrific post mortems

BySean Rayment,
21:04, 9 SEP 2017
Updated21:18, 9 SEP 2017

Former Royal Military Police forensic officer Gary said he went home 'smelling of death'

A soldier stricken by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after examining the mutilated bodies of hundreds of comrades today tells how the Ministry of Defence has abandoned him.

Gary Howard spent almost 22 years in the Army. But after falling ill from the stress of witnessing post mortems for four years, he is now unable to work.

He and his family survive on state benefits and a measly Army pension of just £36 a week while they have run up debts of more than £30,000.

The war veteran, who has considered suicide, told the Sunday People : “After serving Queen and country this is not how I expected my life to be.

"I thought if anything happened to me, the Army would look after me. I could not have been more wrong.”

Gary received just £6,000 in compensation for his mental scars. The worst physical injuries pay up to £570,000.

He said: “Veterans who suffer from PTSD are just as much part of the war wounded community as those who sustained physical injuries on the battlefield.

"But the compensation is capped at £6,000 for PTSD no matter how bad.

“If I’d suffered from physical injuries which prevented me from working, my pension and compensation would be far greater and I wouldn’t be in debt.

“The MoD doesn’t seem to understand that a mental wound can be just as debilitating as a physical one.

"It’s hard enough dealing with a mental condition which can drive you to suicide, without being forced to live in poverty.”

Gary, 48, was a Royal Military Police corporal responsible for repatriating the bodies of soldiers from battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan and attending their post mortems in the UK.

Between 2003 and 2006 he “processed” several hundred bodies, often forced to help pathologists search bodies for bullets and shrapnel.

Gary said: “Part of the job was to examine the bodies to see how they died.

“I had to follow bullet tracks through bodies and remove shrapnel. The wounds were terrible and the memories of often mutilated bodies have haunted me ever since.

"I’ve suffered constant nightmares and flashbacks. It has been a living hell.

“My only comfort is knowing that, by examining how the soldiers were killed, I could write reports to make improvements to body armour.

“Those would have saved the lives of other soldiers, so I take some comfort that those guys didn't die in vain”.

Special Forces hero who led secret mission to blow up Saddam Hussein's communications network dies from 'human Mad Cow Disease'

When Gary left the Army he kept working in forensic science. After years of suffering in silence, he was eventually diagnosed with PTSD in 2013 and given his puny compensation.

"But his worsening mental state meant he was unable to continue in his field and was awarded £36-a-week disability pension.

Today he and wife Lyla survive on £704 Unemployment and Support Allowance and £400 Housing Benefit.

The couple also rely on financial help from their two children Finley, 24, and Tatty, 19. After £600 rent, Gary and Lyla survive on about £600 a month.

They spend £120 of that on food, £125 on gas and electricity and £100 on car tax and fuel.

Any money left goes towards paying off £2,000 in legal fees from their MoD battle and thousands owed to family and friends.

Lyla, 50, who has just been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, said: “We survive by counting every penny.

“We have a very understanding landlord so if we are late with the rent, he doesn’t fuss and the butcher allows us credit, else it would be impossible.

“Gary gave everything for his country and received little in return. It’s not the way veterans should be treated.”

In his last week in the Army, Gary had to deal with 22 dead soldiers, some of whom perished in the notorious RAF Nimrod air disaster of 2006.

The aircraft had been on a routine reconnaissance mission over Afghanistan when a fire broke out on board after inflight refuelling. Every member of the 14-man crew was killed.

An inquiry into the disaster, the greatest single loss of life in the entire war, found the fire had been caused by a series of maintenance blunders.

Gary, who began Army life in the Grenadiers, added: “That was one of the worst weeks in the job. We were dealing with multiple deaths.

“You would go home at the end of the day and you could still smell death.”

He said the MoD knew the nature of the work was having an impact on his team’s mental health. His boss had already developed PTSD doing the same work as Gary but he claims no counselling was offered.

Gary, who met Prince Charles in the course of his work, added: “The MoD have been useless. I had no counselling when I was involved in the repatriation of the dead, even though the MoD knew it was traumatic.

"My boss left because he could not cope, so they knew the work was damaging us.

“There were periods when dead soldiers were arriving every day, sometimes several times a day.”

He added: “The years since I was diagnosed have been very difficult and I have contemplated taking my own life on several occasions.

“If I had physical injuries I’m sure I would have been treated better. The MoD says that it looks after veterans with PTSD but that’s simply not true.”

Three months after he left the Army Gary’s sister, Staff Sergeant Sharron Elliot, was killed by a bomb in southern Iraq. Again Gary was offered no advice or counselling.

But despite his challenges, Gary is determined to make his life a success.

He has enrolled in a chemistry university course and hopes to return to forensics.

He said: “My PTSD means I will never be able to work at a crime scene but I hope one day I will be able to do lab work.”

Edited by Elaine - 12 Sep 2017 at 9:34am
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Elaine Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Sep 2017 at 9:30am

'I walked out covered in a young girl's blood': one soldier's struggle with PTSD, and the Ministry of Defence

'They don’t care. The fact that you have fought for your country, done three combat tours, that counts for nothing.'
Dean Upson Former Corporal in 33 Engineer Regiment (EOD) |
Sunday 21 August 2016 23:00 BST|

The Independent Online

Dean Upson started suffering PTSD while serving with a medical emergency reaction team in Afghanistan

They handed her to me, a young girl, four or five maybe, to hold in my arms.

She was a mess, a lot of abdominal injuries – one casualty among many hit by a suicide bomb in an Afghan market place.

She didn’t make a sound, just tucked her arms into my body armour and held on, like a limpet.

I was a non-believer in PTSD - but the Marines taught me better

I talked to her, made funny noises, did whatever I could to reassure her, although I’m sure she didn’t understand a word. And when we landed at Camp Bastion, because I had carried her back like this, I went into the trauma room with her.

I don’t know how many injured local nationals there were, but walking into that room was like walking into an abattoir.

She wouldn’t let go of me. They had to pop my body armour off before they could prise her off.

I walked out of there covered in a young girl’s blood.

Someone once explained to me that PTSD is like a pint glass slowly being filled.

I had been on TELIC I, the invasion of Iraq. It was war. It was what you expected: “We’re the good guys, they’re the bad guys, let’s go.”

But the pint glass gets a little fuller.

I went to Afghanistan, 2006, Helmand – very kinetic, a stand-up fight, firing your weapon, coming under fire. It is addictive, very addictive, exhilarating.

But the pint glass is filling up the whole time.

And in late 2008, on my second Afghan tour, the pint glass was spilling over.

I was attached to a MERT (Medical emergency reaction team), as part of an explosive ordnance disposal unit, in case IED [improvised explosive device] or mine clearance was needed when the helicopter got to the casualty. No such clearance work was ever needed. Instead, I was in the Chinook, doing whatever I could to help the miracle workers, the incredible medical guys: holding hands, pushing fluids into people. Plugging holes.
I remember a young female American soldier. She was so badly burned that we only knew she was a woman when we noticed she was wearing a bra. Sometimes, you’d go out on six or seven jobs in a single day.

Two days before I left for Christmas R&R [rest and recuperation], we had a young Commando with a gunshot wound to the head. Incredibly, when we got to him, he was still alive. We dropped him off at Kandahar, but when we landed at Bastion, we were informed he had died. I walked into my tent covered head to toe in blood, slumped in my chair, and wept.

That had been my staff sergeant’s first medical evacuation job. He asked if they were all that bad. I told him that was one of the better ones. But it was the one that finished me.

The PTSD started manifesting itself while I was still on my tour. I told no one. I didn’t want to be the lunatic in the troop. Weakness in the forces, you don’t do it. And as an old-style NCO [non-commissioned officer], a leader, you can’t do it. You just try to crack on as best you can. Until you are in complete crisis.

Which is why, five to 10 years from now, there’s going to be a tidal wave of guys like me, coming forward saying they are suffering.

And there are more psychological injuries than anything else. Hundreds of guys were made amputees in Afghanistan – a large number – but how many guys are out there with psychological injuries? The psychological injuries are the worst. They say that more Falklands veterans killed themselves than guys who died in combat.

If you’ve had your leg blown off, you can get a prosthetic leg. If you have got PTSD, what can they do about your head?

Back in England, I was all over the place: nightmares, flashbacks, crying like a little girl with a scraped knee.

I made two attempts on my life in 2009. I’ve made three suicide attempts altogether. You don't sleep, you feel hopeless, reliving stuff you don’t want to think about. You want it to stop. Suicide is something I think about daily.

I was put on sick leave, but in June 2011 I was medically discharged.

I’m 36 now. I’d gone into the recruiting office when I was 17 and a half, on a lunch break from working as a builder’s labourer. My dad had done it, my granddad had done it. I thought I’d give it a go – even if I really wanted to be an archaeologist.

I loved it. You know what? You get to do a lot of good. In Kosovo I helped build and run a refugee camp for thousands of refugees.

And it’s the guys around you, the camaraderie, that makes the British Army the best in the world. No matter how bad things are, they’ll always crack a joke. And last week, when they found out I was having a wobble – bad flashbacks – the guys from my old unit were phoning me up, from Malawi one of them. The support they have offered me has been amazing.

But the senior officers, I’ve known some who can reel off the names of those who got physical injuries, but haven’t got a clue who the guys with PTSD are.

And the politicians … Yes, every soldier signs on that dotted line wanting to go to war, to fight the bad guys and feel what war is like, whatever they may say to the contrary. But the politicians who order them to fight, they’ve no real grasp of the mental strain involved. And how many of their sons and daughters do you see going to war?

It’s the same with society at large. They’ll see the guy on crutches, the guy in a wheelchair and understand. But then they’ll look at you and say “What’s wrong with him? He looks fine.” If they can’t see it, they’re not interested.

Nor is anyone involved with Armed Forces compensation. The visible injuries that they can’t argue with, the lost limbs, they will pay for straight away. But the non-visible injuries, they don’t want to give you a thing. They will fight and question everything. They will even try everything they can to discharge you before you get your diagnosis of PTSD.

I’ve known guys discharged on the grounds of “personality defect” or “burn out”. Because they didn’t get their diagnosis of PTSD before they were discharged, they got nothing. My initial compensation payment was £3,000 – a joke. With that and a medical discharge payment based on my length of service I was left with £30,000.

£30,000. After 14 years’ service, tours of Iraq and Afghanistan and an entire life messed up by PTSD. What was I supposed to do? It wasn’t as if I could go into full-time employment in another job in my state. I tried. I lasted three months.

I would phone the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme in tears, explaining my situation, saying “Look, I’ve tried to kill myself.” I was just told: “We’ll pass it on.”

They don’t care. The fact that you have fought for your country, done three combat tours, that counts for nothing. You have to fight for everything. Which I did. I eventually got the maximum award – more than £160,000. But it took four years, and the involvement of lawyers.

Yes, at least I have my money now. But I would rather have my career and, above all, my health. So why am I telling you all this, why am I reliving everything? Because I want people to know this stuff is happening.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme had awarded more than £600m since 2005 and that service personnel were encouraged to submit claims so they could be properly considered: “We are absolutely committed to the mental health of our armed forces and this increase in successful claims shows our campaigns are encouraging those who need help to come forward to get the compensation they deserve.”

The young Afghan girl survived.

More about: |
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Dean Upson|







Edited by Elaine - 12 Sep 2017 at 9:40am
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About 30 jobs are at risk at Combat Stress.

More than two dozen people have already confirmed that they will be marching on the Audley Court treatment centre on Friday, and more are expected to turn out on the day.

The job losses are part of a five-year restructuring plan which, the charity said, would “offer greater flexibility and accessibility to treatment so veterans can be supported more quickly”.

But veterans who have used the service feel that the loss of the service's residential programmes could damage lives in the future.

Among those leading the campaign is Pete Neale, who said it was important to act before nothing else could be done.

Nearly 1,500 people have joined the private Save Audley Court Combat Stress Facebook group since it was founded less than a fortnight ago.

"I'm feeling good about the support we've had," he said.

"I just want the truth to the questions and see if we can move forward in the right way before it's too late for some on these veterans.

"They all deserve the right to the right treatment that is safe for them and their families."

Mr Neale said that he thought more solutions should be found to help offset the cost of treatment.

"I just don't think Combat Stress, Sue Freeth and her staff have tried hard enough for more funding from the Ministry of Defence or the government," he said.

"Our group of veterans have come up with so many ideas that they are willing to do to help, like pay for meals, clean their own rooms and corridors or do a online shop for art work to be sold."

The group will meet at the car park on Broadway at 10am on Friday. Around 45 minutes later they will march towards Audley Court, where they are expected to arrive at about 11.15am.

A party will then go inside to meet with Su Freeth. A briefing outside is expected to take place at around 1pm.

At 2pm the veterans will move onto The Pheasant in Upper Bar to plan their next move.

The march is being held in opposition to major changes announced by Combat Stress last month.

Documents filed with the Charity Commission showed that Combat Stress had a deficit of £3.6m in the financial year ending March 31, 2016, generating £13m and spending £16.6m.

Ms Freeth said that Audley Court would "remain an important hub for the services we deliver to veterans across Wales and the Midlands".


Newport Telford Local


Edited by Elaine - 12 Oct 2017 at 9:03am
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Elaine Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 22 Oct 2017 at 3:37pm

A war hero awarded the Military Cross today sensationally claims Army bosses covered up his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder for EIGHT YEARS.

Sean Jones says he was diagnosed by a military doctor, but never told.

He was sent back to the front line in Afghanistan – the cause of searing nightmares that tore his life apart.

The Colour Sergeant says he finally discovered the truth six days ago, after contemplating suicide.

Sean, 30, says a GP accessed his records and found he had been ­diagnosed by an Army medic in 2009.

Now, in an unprecedented step as a serving member of the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment, Sean is speaking out – fearing other soldiers are in the same position.

The father of two suspects many soldiers stay trapped “in a wheel of death” rather than speak out and risk losing their career.

Speaking from his home in ­Folkestone, Kent, Sean says: “I was a poster boy for my regiment because I won the Military Cross and was very good at what I did.

“All the bad stuff was ignored by the Army. As far as they were concerned I was a Military Cross winner and that was all that was important.

“Now I’m left wondering how could the Army send me back to ­Afghanistan knowing I had PTSD ?”

Sean, who signed up at 16, has been broken by years of nightmares and flashbacks following three tours of duty in Afghanistan.

Over the summer he started to struggle with emotional issues. His GP put him on sick leave and referred him for weekly sessions with a psychiatrist in Woolwich, South East London.

I thought I was bulletproof - then a 3-year-old boy died in front of me: A firefighter's story

He says that during an appointment four weeks ago he was told he had PTSD. Then, last Monday, he set out to end his life. He revealed: “I was going to hang myself and found the tree where I was going to do it.

“But a voice said ‘Think of your family’.

“My wife found me. She was shocked but also angry. She said I was being selfish and she’s right.”

What happened next hit Sean hard.

When he went to see his GP she checked computerised Army medical records. Sean says she found he first exhibited signs of PTSD in 2009, after his second tour in Afghanistan.

Sean went on: “I was staggered when I saw the notes. No one told me about PTSD.

“My mental health condition now was 100% preventable in my opinion.

"My records show I was exhibiting PTSD symptoms in 2009 and not told about it. I then deployed to Afghanistan again in 2011, still suffering the same problems.

"How could the Army send me back to Afghanistan knowing I had PTSD? My chain of command could see I had issues but nothing was done. And I know I am not the only one.”

'When you leave, you're on your own': Pal of Terry Butcher's tragic former soldier son says Army is failing traumatised veterans

Legal experts told the Sunday Mirror that an immediate referral should be made to the Department of Community Mental Health. Guidelines state doctors “must give patients the information they want or need to know in a way they can understand... unless you believe giving it would cause the patient serious harm”.

If information is withheld the reason must be included on file.

Sean is furious he was never told. He said: “I believe I would be a different person now. I wish I’d asked more questions. But I was a young soldier whose focus was on serving my country. I’d never heard of PTSD.”

The case comes days after Captain Chris Butcher, the son of former England soccer captain Terry Butcher, was found dead at home aged just 35 after struggling to cope with life after serving in Afghanistan.

Sean says that since 2009 he’s been suffering anger issues, nightmares, flashbacks and excessive drinking.

He was arrested twice for assault and his marriage was blighted.

Sean said his personality changed after he was blown up in Afghanistan in 2009, while a Lance Corporal in his regiment’s 1st Battalion.

He was responsible for clearing a safe lane for a convoy through a section of the Helmand desert.

A hidden bomb detonated as a troop carrier drove over it. Sean suff-ered severe shrapnel wounds to his back and legs. The vehicle, carrying eight soldiers, burst into flames.

Sean said: “The driver was being burned and was screaming. I was semi-conscious with two very inexperienced lads looking at me wondering what to do. ­Eventually help arrived.”

The driver was badly wounded, while Sean needed two operations.

A few months later he returned to Afghanistan, desperate not to let anyone down.

He admitted: “I said I was fitter than I was. Physically I wasn’t up to it and was struggling mentally. After the first patrol back I was almost in tears – I was in so much pain.”

After returning to his barracks in Germany, Sean’s mental state declined.

'Demons are winning': Heartbreaking last letter of traumatised soldier who killed himself after he was 'failed by MoD'

His wife Amanda said: “One night Sean grabbed me around the throat and lifted me off the floor. I was terrified and told him he needed help.”

Sean was seen by an Army doctor. He added: “The doctor arranged for me to see a psychiatric nurse and had written on my notes I was exhibiting symptoms of acute PTSD – but this wasn’t explained to me. There was no mention of PTSD. I had seven sessions which were just chats really. Nothing more was said.”

Sean returned to Afghanistan for a third time in 2011. By then his PTSD was worse, but he excelled in his post.

When his patrol was ambushed he ordered three men to fix bayonets before breaking cover and leading them across open ground raked by enemy fire.

The speed, aggression and audacity of his response caused the insurgents to fall back in disarray.

Sean was awarded the Military Cross and received it from Prince Charles. But the nightmares worsened. He went on: “It should have been clear I had PTSD. But most soldiers won’t speak out.

“In my experience anyone who opens up is called a wet blanket or jelly head.

“You can kiss your career goodbye. I spent 14 years in my battalion and no one contacted me to ask how I am. It’s as if I had become an embarrassment.”

Sean is having treatment and a ­decision on his future will be made later. Now he is urging former soldier Prince Harry, who has spoken of the need to help PTSD sufferers, to go further.

He said: “If he was to call on the MoD to conduct a detailed study of PTSD, that would have a huge impact.”

Amanda, 30, said that in nine years as an Army wife she never got advice on coping with a partner back from war.

She said: “I didn’t even know what PTSD was until Sean’s GP talked about it last week. I lived with his nightmares for years. He often wakes up screaming. I’ve seen him clawing at his face while he was asleep. It’s terrifying.”

Military legal case expert Hilary ­Meredith said: “The MoD owe a duty to all personnel. They failed miserably here.”

Human Rights barrister Simon McKay added: “This case shows the military still hasn’t grappled with PTSD. Veterans are being let down.”

An MoD spokesman said: “We are committed to the mental fitness of our personnel, having launched our new strategy and partnered with the Royal Foundation to tackle mental health issues head on. We encourage anyone who is suffering to come forward and get the support they deserve.”

A ministry source added: “If someone showed signs of illness we would offer support, a formal assessment if needed and treatment. This was available.

“We only deploy individuals in roles they are assessed to be militarily and medically competent to carry out.”

Edited by Elaine - 14 Jan 2018 at 12:17pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Elaine Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 14 Jan 2018 at 12:16pm
To let brave soldiers suffer in silence isn’t just cruel, it’s a DERELICTION OF DUTY says ex-Army chief
Lord Dannatt says he's filled with sadness and frustration at mental health care
Since 1995, more than 400 serving Servicemen and women committed suicide
He said: ' Let me be clear. Level of care falls far short of what brave troops need'

By Lord Dannatt Former Head Of The British Army

Published: 02:00, 14 January 2018 | Updated: 02:00, 14 January 2018

To read in this newspaper last week of the tragic death of Warrant Officer Nathan Hunt filled me with sadness and frustration. Not only because the Army has lost a decorated soldier who fought with distinction in Afghanistan, but also because his death reminded me of the failure of the Ministry of Defence to provide adequate mental health care for our brave men and women in the Armed Forces who are still serving.

Nathan Hunt was not a veteran – he was a serving soldier who fought alongside Prince Harry in Helmand province.

It is a shocking and damning statistic that since 1995, more than 400 serving Servicemen and women have taken their own lives – that’s around 20 personnel lost to suicide every year. It may horrify readers to learn therefore that there is no round-the-clock care for vulnerable troops.

Cases of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are also on the rise, yet remarkably, specialist mental healthcare for active members of the Forces is only available during office hours. In the evenings, at night and at weekends, vulnerable personnel are expected to call a charity or turn up at their nearest A&E department.

Let me be clear: this level of care falls far short of what our brave troops require. It also represents something of a dereliction of duty by the MoD towards those who defend our country.

I have no difficulty with military veterans requiring help from charities – that has always been the British way – but not serving personnel, surely?

Warrant Officer Nathan Hunt, who fought alongside Prince Harry in Helmand province, took his own life this year

A Government that sends troops into dangerous situations has a clear moral responsibility to look after those who are traumatised by their warzone experiences, certainly while they remain in uniform.

I am sad to admit that my efforts to persuade Ministers to improve mental healthcare for vulnerable personnel have failed so far. That is why now, following the death of WO Hunt, I have joined forces with The Mail on Sunday in a fresh bid to get the MoD to listen.

It is also harrowing to read today in the MoS how other members of WO Hunt’s unit have been left traumatised by their experiences – no surprise given their exposure to enemy fire and the unimaginable stress of searching for Taliban roadside bombs. Their stories echo so many experiences of young men and women who have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years.

Since 1995, more than 400 serving Servicemen and women have taken their own lives – that’s around 20 personnel lost to suicide every year

Nobody should judge them harshly for struggling to readjust to life back in this country, because they’re conditioned by what they’ve seen, done, smelt and heard. That said, I am convinced that a major reason why these troops are suffering so acutely today is because of the lack of mental healthcare. In recent years, we have made steps forward, but have we done enough?

Last year, Defence Minister Tobias Ellwood listened politely to my bid to set up a 24/7 helpline for serving personnel but it was rejected because it would cost £2 million and require the MoD to recruit an extra 40 mental healthcare experts.

Defence officials calculated the helpline would be used by fewer than 50 troops a year so the project was deemed not cost-effective. Needless to say I was very disappointed, because even if only a small number of personnel require this service they should still receive it. If you’re mentally ill you should get the care you need from your employer, whatever the time of day or day of the week. My words fell on cash-strapped ears back then, but I will not back down.

I have raised the issue in the House of Lords. I remain convinced £2 million is not a huge sum when it comes to saving soldiers’ lives, even in these straitened times.

If the MoD can afford to pay for rebranding campaigns, then surely it can afford to look after its traumatised troops. I also don’t want any more Servicemen or women having to wait in an A&E department surrounded by drunks on a Saturday night when they should be able to speak to a military mental healthcare specialist under whose care they are already registered.

We will never know whether WO Hunt would have called a dedicated military helpline for serving personnel, but it should be set up immediately so the next soldier to find themselves in a similar predicament – and sadly that could be very soon – has the option of doing so.

It also makes financial sense to invest in better mental healthcare. Soldiers are expensive to train and too many are leaving too soon – and faster than we can find new recruits.

Prince Harry, fifth right, pictured with his battle group in Helmand Province, Afghanistan in March 2008, with Warrant Officer Nathan Hunt, circled, who took his own life this month

So, having spent a lot of money to teach soldiers the art of modern warfare, we should aim to keep them in the skilled work for which they have been trained. That means enhancing the current level of treating mental health issues as quickly and effectively as possible, before anxiety and depression develop into full-blown PTSD.

It is also important we make these improvements now, when the Forces are presenting themselves publicly as sympathetic towards those who are inclined to be emotional.

Ministers must back up these claims with additional resources. Otherwise those who need an arm around them will find nobody is there.

Taking people into our care is a 24/7 commitment and it should not be outsourced to a charity or the already overburdened NHS, hence the need for a properly staffed and funded crisis helpline. If we are not prepared to look after soldiers while they remain in uniform, ready and willing to deploy to any part of the world to defend Britain’s interests, then who are we willing to care for as a society?

What does it say about us that we are prepared to stand aside as soldier after soldier takes his or her life when we could have intervened and possibly prevented their deaths? There has to be a better way.

I want the Army to continue to ‘Be The Best’ – the slogan much admired by the new Defence Secretary, Gavin Williamson, and now reaffirmed by the Army.

In promoting the excellent campaign of ‘belonging’ within the Army, I hope Mr Williamson will support a 24/7 helpline for serving soldiers and be minded to save lives by improving mental healthcare.

We expect troops to fight anywhere and at any time of the day or night. That means we should look out for their best interests around the clock.

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Edited by Elaine - 14 Jan 2018 at 12:21pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Elaine Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 Feb 2018 at 12:19am

HM Armed Forces

12 hrs ·
📞 A new 24/7 mental health helpline, 0800 323 4444, is open and ready to take calls from midday today.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Elaine Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Mar 2018 at 12:33am
Defence chiefs are forced to pay out £5.5million compensation to 34 troops suffering from 'shell shock' brought about by their service
According to a Freedom of information request, 53 more cases remain pending
More than 400 service personnel have taken their own lives since 1995
Mental health cases among troops have almost doubled in the last ten years

By Mark Nicol Defence Correspondent For The Mail On Sunday

Published: 23:49, 10 March 2018 | Updated: 00:11, 11 March 2018

Defence chiefs have been forced to pay out £5.5 million compensation to 34 troops suffering acute post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The squaddies received an average of £161,764 each after top brass conceded that mental illness brought about by their service will affect their personal and professional lives for years to come.

According to a Freedom of Information (FoI) request, a further 53 cases remain pending against the Ministry of Defence, meaning taxpayers face footing the bill for further huge pay-outs as a result of PTSD cases which, according to some health experts, could have been prevented.

Defence chiefs have been forced to pay out £5.5 million compensation to 34 troops suffering acute post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

The news of the claims comes after The Mail on Sunday won a significant campaign to persuade military leaders to introduce a 24/7 helpline for serving troops so they can discuss mental health issues.

It is hoped that the helpline, which received hundreds of calls in its first week, will lead to mental illnesses such as PTSD being diagnosed more quickly.

According to doctors the sooner any mental health condition is assessed and treated, the less likely it is to lead to a life-changing or life-threatening illness.

Last night, Mandy Bostick, a psychotherapist who specialises in PTSD, said: ‘Failures in the Ministry of Defence’s provision of mental healthcare to troops with severe PTSD were revealed in a report commissioned by NHS England in 2016.

‘While in service and on discharge into civilian life, the troops are entitled to expect the highest standards of medical care and assess-ment. However, I don’t think they’re getting it and this leads to their conditions getting worse and payments of this size.
According to doctors the sooner any mental health condition is assessed and treated, the less likely it is to lead to a life-changing or life-threatening illness

‘I know personally of troops seeking independent medical testing because of the absence of care inside military establishments.

‘The ripple effect of these failings comes in civilian life, social services become involved and the soldiers end up separated from their wives and children. Responsibility lies at the door of the MoD.’

The same FoI request reveals that 36 further claims brought against the MoD by PTSD sufferers from 2012 to 2017 were either unsuccessful, withdrawn or not pursued.

The 2016 Gate to Gate report highlighted the need for the Armed Forces to improve awareness of the mental health services available to troops and where they should go to receive treatment.

The report also said that counsellors employed by MoD to treat front-line personnel needed to have a greater awareness of the specific issues they face as a result of their war zone experiences.

More than 400 service personnel have taken their own lives since 1995, while mental health cases among troops have almost doubled in the last ten years.

Last night the MoD did not respond to a request for comment.

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Edited by Elaine - 12 Mar 2018 at 12:35am
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Elaine Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12 Aug 2018 at 5:35pm
Mum who found dead body of soldier son who served in Afghanistan says Army “can’t be bothered” to help men like him
Kevin Holt, a former member of the 2nd Battalion, was discovered dead by his mother Shirley – who said the Army “can’t be bothered” to help men like him

BySean Rayment
20:56, 11 AUG 2018UPDATED21:12, 11 AUG 2018

The regiment with the highest Afghan war casualty toll is still suffering losses as its heroes battle demons in civilian life.

The Rifles lost 55 dead and 252 wounded serving on the front line but its mentally traumatised veterans continue to die young.

A fortnight ago Kevin Holt, a former member of the 2nd Battalion who had always dreamed of being a soldier, was discovered dead at 29 by his mum Shirley – who said the Army “can’t be bothered” to help men like him.

Kevin’s death a fortnight ago, after nearly a decade of struggling with post traumatic stress disorder, remains a mystery.

But this year alone at least six men who served in the Rifles have taken their own lives, including one in the past week.

Cleaner Shirley, who found Kevin’s body in the caravan he used as his home, said he never got over what he had witnessed in Afghanistan.

British Army 'held back by lack of cash', reveals study drawn up for senior officers
By the time The Rifles returned to the UK more than half of Kevin’s platoon had been killed or wounded.

Shirley, a widow who has four daughters, spoke to the Sunday People in support of our Save Our Soldiers campaign which is pushing for better care for troops with PTSD.

She said: “Kevin had changed after he returned from Afghanistan. Before he went he was a smiling happy boy who loved life. He was always chatty, had lots of friends and would see the positive in everything.

"But when he came back from Helmand he had lost a lot of friends and struggled to talk about it. He became very angry.

“He suffered from terrible dreams almost every night. I think it got to the stage that he was too scared to go to sleep because he knew he would be haunted by flashbacks.”

Shirley insisted aftercare had been totally lacking, saying: “It was like the Army couldn’t wait to get rid of him. As soon as he was diagnosed everything stopped and he was told he was going to be discharged.

“That was it – no help, no counselling, nothing. He even had to wait four years for a pension.

“The way the Ministry of Defence behaved is disgraceful. Kevin gave everything to the Army but when he needed help they were nowhere to be found. They just couldn’t be bothered.”

An inquest on Kevin, from Thorne, South Yorks, is due to be held later this year but Shirley does not believe he committed suicide."But the next morning he was dead. Me and my daughter found him in the caravan he was living in.

“The last thing he said to me was, ‘I want to be alone’. I said, ‘Come and watch a film with me’ and he said, ‘I just want to be on my own’.

“He had a dog which we got him five years ago so he wasn’t entirely on his own.”

Kevin, who was engaged twice but never married, had only ever wanted to be a soldier.

He fulfilled his boyhood ambition when he joined up in 2005 aged 17 after being accepted into The Rifles.

In basic training he learned he would be posted to 2 Rifles and go to fight in Iraq as soon as he was 18.

Shirley continued: “I was so proud when he joined the Army. His passing out parade was one of the happiest days of my life.

“He was very handsome and I was brimming with pride. The future seemed very bright for him. He had a good group of friends and he really loved the life.”

Within a year, Kevin was serving on the front line in Iraq in 2006. Shirley said: “I think he saw some nasty stuff in Iraq and looking back that is where the PTSD may have started. But Kevin wasn’t the sort of person who would offload his troubles onto someone else.”

In 2009 Kevin, by then 21, was sent to Helmand Province in Afghanistan for a six-month tour.

The war against the Taliban had entered its most bloody period and The Rifles were stationed in Sangin, an area regarded by troops as “hell on earth”.

The Taliban had fought the British to a stalemate with soldiers being killed or wounded every day by improvised explosive devices.

On the morning of July 10 Kevin was on patrol with 30 other members of 9 Platoon, C Company, when one triggered a home-made bomb and died instantly.

Moments later another device set off a series of bombs in a “daisy chain” ambush.

The blasts killed four other soldiers, including 18-year-old Rifleman James Backhouse, and left several more injured.

Kevin was one of the few who escaped without a scratch and continued searching for further devices as the dead and wounded were taken back to their base.
For his actions on that bloody day, Kevin was mentioned in dispatches but although he escaped with no physical wounds the attack had left him mentally traumatised.

After he left the Army he retrained as a bricklayer but found it difficult to hold down jobs.

In 2013, speaking about how war had changed him, he said: “I had mood swings, anger problems. At one stage I smashed up my room. I don’t even know why.”

And he was not the only survivor of the attack to be traumatised. His friend Allan Arnold, who was in the same platoon but who did not take part in the patrol, struggled to come to terms with the death of his five friends.

While on leave Allan was found hanging in a tree near his home in Gloucestershire.

It later emerged that he was unable to deal with the loss of one of his closest mates, William Aldridge, who at barely 18 was the youngest British soldier to die in Afghanistan.

Just days ago another Rifles veteran, 39-year-old Jonny Cole, was found dead in Codnor Park, near his home in Ironville, Derbys, He is believed to have battled PTSD and anxiety.

The MoD does not keep figures for veterans who commit suicide.

But figures collated by the Sunday People show at least 21 serving and ex-members of the Forces have taken their own lives this year after struggling with PTSD.

Shirley added: “If we send young men to war we need to make sure they are helped when they return. Kevin’s wounds were inside his head but they caused him as much pain as physical ones.”

Edited by Elaine - 12 Aug 2018 at 5:41pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Elaine Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04 Sep 2018 at 6:17pm
Soldiers must report their superiors if they think they are a suicide risk, the first ever suicide prevention booklet given to the armed forces says.

The new pocket guide to help armed forces personnel spot and support those who may be struggling with their mental health will be launched on September 4th.

The guide, jointly launched by Samaritans and the Ministry of Defence, gives advice on how to identify signs that someone may be having difficulties and considering suicide. It suggests ways of offering support and gives information on where help can be found.

All military personnel and reserves, some 200,000 people, will have access to either a hard copy or digital version of the booklet.

A loss of personal discipline, drinking alone and appearing “not quite there” are all warning signs, the guide says. Using negative statements such as ‘it’s like everything is against me’ could be an indication the individual is struggling.

‘Being in the armed forces means you are exposed to a higher degree of risk and pressure than you might expect in other jobs,’ the booklet states. The guide champions ‘looking after your mates’ and is specifically designed to promote peer support amongst those serving, regardless of rank.

The higher degree of risk and pressure in the armed forces can lead to suicidal thoughts, the Samaritans says, as new support is offered to service personnel.
Gavin Williamson, the Defence Secretary, said: “Mental health issues can affect anyone and I want to ensure no one in our military suffers in silence. It is vital that service personnel know where to turn to in times of crisis, and this guide will raise awareness of the support available”.

“By helping our people to spot the early signs that someone may be struggling, we give them the best chance of a full recovery.”

The booklet will also help personnel spot signs that colleagues may be having suicidal thoughts and provides information on how such a situation should be approached, and where support is available.

The military rate of suicide was 8 per 100,000 in 2017, compared to 18 per 100,000 in the general population in 2016. Although the number of military personnel who take their lives continues to be below rates for the general population, Minister for Defence People and Veterans, Tobias Ellwood, said: “We’re committed to ensuring that those who need help are able to get the support they need”.

Mr Ellwood has previously championed the cause of mental health care for the armed forces, having revealed his army veteran uncle killed himself having suffered depression in silence.

The guide acknowledges suicide is a complex issue and says there is rarely only one reason why someone chooses to take their own life. It highlights homesickness, losing custody of a child, long-term separation and the recent loss of a friend or loved one as being possible triggers. Loss of identity for those leaving the armed forces is also a concern.

The booklet is the first in a series of joint initiatives by the Samaritans and the MoD to offer training and support to serving personnel, veterans and their families who are struggling with mental health issues. The programme has been funded by £3.5 million from fines levied on the banking industry for manipulating the LIBOR rate.

Samaritans CEO, Ruth Sutherland, said: “Samaritans is committed to bringing the expertise we have gained in training people to provide peer support to the military, in order to prevent suicides. This is the first step in a journey to provide a variety of support for serving personnel, veterans, reservists and their families.”

The Ministry of Defence is now spending £220 million over the next decade to improve mental health services for serving personnel. In February of this year, the Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson also announced the establishment of a 24-Hour Mental Health Helpline for serving personnel and their families, funded by the MoD and run by the charity Combat Stress.

Edited by Elaine - 04 Sep 2018 at 6:19pm
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Elaine Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 24 Sep 2018 at 10:05am
More than HALF of British military personnel 'drinking dangerously high levels of alcohol'
The Ministry of Defence figures have sparked fears that thousands of troops with mental health issues are self-medicating with booze

BySean Rayment
17:47, 22 SEP 2018

More than half of servicemen and women are drinking dangerously high levels of alcohol , top brass have been warned.

Some 58 per cent have been told their boozing habits put them at “high risk from alcohol related harm”.

The Ministry of Defence quizzed 109,000 of its 149,000 personnel in the study.

Separate stats revealed under Freedom of Information laws showed 114 were classed as “alcohol dependent” – effectively alcoholics – and up to 1,000 were treated for drink abuse in the last 12 months.

The figures have sparked fears that thousands of troops with mental health issues are self-medicating with booze.

Veterans and serving soldiers tell the Sunday People that hitting the bottle is often regarded as vital to group bonding.

Troops returning from ops in Afghanistan and Iraq were encouraged to get drunk during a process called decompression.

General Lord Dannatt, former head of the Army, says drug and alcohol abuse are "chronic problems" among personnel

Dr Nick Murdoch, of veterans’ charity Care After Combat, said: “Troops will use alcohol to help medicate disorders such as PTSD. But the problem is we develop a tolerance to alcohol so we need increasing amounts to get the same effect.”

General Lord Dannatt, a former chief of general staff, said: “Abuse of alcohol has long been a chronic problem in the Army, more so than misuse of drugs which is dealt with very severely.The culture of working hard and then playing hard often leads to misuse of alcohol.

“That said, there is a greater awareness in the Army of the dangers of alcohol abuse and of the importance of physical fitness, than 10 or 20 years ago.”

The MoD report’s findings were based on a scoring system where troops were given points for the amount of booze they consumed.

Those who drank three glasses of wine up to five time a week were given a score of 5+, indicating that they were at high risk from alcohol related harm.

Those who drank three pints of beer up to five times a week received a score of 10+ and were described as being at higher risk and were advised to see a GP.

Edited by Elaine - 24 Sep 2018 at 10:12am
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Elaine Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11 Feb 2019 at 10:11pm

The Ministry of Defence is looking into suicide rates among veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts.

Cases where former servicemen and women have taken their own lives will be the focus of the research. It will look into the causes of death among those who left the Armed Forces.

It's been reported that more than 40 former or current service personnel are believed to have taken their lives so far this year.

Defence Minister Tobias Ellwood said the "vital" new study will further the MoD's understanding of the "wellbeing of our people so we can continue to provide the best possible care to all who have served".

Mr Ellwood added:

"Our Armed Forces do a magnificent job, and we owe a huge debt of gratitude to each man and woman who has laid their life on the line to keep our country safe.

"Most transition successfully into civilian life once they have put away their uniforms, but we cannot afford to be complacent. Mental health problems can affect us all, and the wellbeing of our people remains a top priority."

It warned that the number of Armed Forces men, woman and veterans seeking mental health care had nearly doubled over the past decade.

In particular, there were high levels of those who saw combat in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The MPs said it was still taking "too long" for veterans to access treatment, with some falling through the gaps and availability of care varying in different parts of the UK.

Official Ministry of Defence figures showed that 3.1% of serving personnel are diagnosed with mental health conditions - twice the proportion seen in 2008-2009.

But the committee warned that the number of veterans with conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression could be three times higher, at about 10%, amid concern that some may not seek help because of stigma surrounding mental health.

In 2014 a study found that PTSD levels were at 6.9% among regular troops and 6% among reservists.

Edited by Elaine - 11 Feb 2019 at 10:14pm
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