Military mental health: breaking the stigma

June 7, 2018

Posted by: Charlotte Jose


I often have to represent service personnel who suffer with mental health problems.  They are two times more likely to experience a common mental health problem than civilians.  Sometimes this is because of events they have experienced during combat and other times it can be a natural occurrence following injury or stress.

Too often, people do not want to speak about their mental health problems and for service personnel this can be especially difficult.  Many are worried about the impact that it can have on their careers.

There has always been a stigma around mental health, but attitudes are changing for the better and more and more people speaking out about their experiences.  But there are a number of campaigns, charities and support groups that can help.

The “Heads Together” campaign, launched by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry and supported by a number of other organisations, started a conversation about breaking down the stigma of mental health.  Prince Harry in particular gained the support of the Ministry of Defence to address mental health for service personnel and aiming to “focus on the message that mental fitness is as important as physical fitness when working in the Armed Forces”.

At Bolt Burdon Kemp we work closely with a number of charities that help service personnel and veterans with mental health problems.

In October 2018 I will be running a half marathon to raise money for Combat Stress, the UK’s leading charity for veteran’s mental health, which has been helping the armed forces community for almost a century.  As well as providing medical treatment, they carry out pioneering research into the mental health of our service personnel and veterans.

It is fantastic to see that campaigns and charities are trying to fight the stigma surrounding mental health.

PTSD

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is an anxiety disorder caused by stressful, frightening or distressing events. Symptoms of PTSD can include:

  • difficulty sleeping
  • nightmares
  • flashbacks
  • irritability
  • aggressive behaviour
  • hyper vigilance

This is just a snapshot of the symptoms that someone can suffer and often sufferers can turn to drugs and/or alcohol to help manage their symptoms.  If not diagnosed and treated quickly, the condition can become worse or long-term.  We cannot ignore the impact that the condition has on family and loved ones too.

A common misconception is that service personnel must have been involved in combat situations to suffer with PTSD.  Whilst this is a problem and figures show that deployment is a key factor in the assessment of PTSD, it is not always the case.  Everyone is different and PTSD can develop following accidents or during stress at work, for example when being bullied or harassed.

Compensation

Compensation may be available for those who have suffered with mental health issues, like PTSD.  There are strict time limits under Armed Forces Compensation Scheme and for civil claims and if you think you are entitled to compensation then you should take legal advice as quickly as possible.

Treatment, rehabilitation and recovery is not quick, easy or cheap.  To improve treatment times and resourses, we need to be talking about mental health openly and I am pleased to see how the landscape is changing.

Whilst positive changes are being made in attitudes, both within the Ministry of Defence and society at large, there is a long way to go.  Our service personnel and veterans should not have to turn to charities for support and we need to ensure that they are given the care and compensation they deserve. 

Charlotte Jose is a Paralegal in Bolt Burdon Kemp’s Military Claims Team.  If you have a query and would like to seek legal advice, please do not hesitate to contact me on 020 7288 4853 or at CharlotteJose@boltburdonkemp.co.uk.  Alternatively, complete this form and one of the solicitors in the Adult Brain Injury team will contact you. Find out more about the Military Claims team.

Helpful links

This is a link to the NHS website providing guidance about PTSD:

This is a link to the charity, Combat Stress:

This is a link to the Heads Together mental health initiative:

Posted by: Charlotte Jose

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