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Veterans’ violence: is PTSD to blame?

A recent study by King’s Centre for Military Health Research showed that one in eight soldiers has attacked someone after coming home from a tour of duty in Iraq or Afghanistan. Shockingly, a third of the victims were family members such as a wife or partner.

In researching this issue the Centre spoke to 13,000 veterans and discovered the clear link between combat trauma and violence at home.

The BBC interviewed one veteran who had served two tours of duty in Kosovo. On his return he started to drink heavily and become very violent. He did not know that he was displaying some of the classic signs of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He said that it took him almost 5 years to get a diagnosis and start to get treatment. When discussing the problem of violence he noted that soldiers are programmed to fight when they joined the Forces but that they are of course not de-programmed when they leave.

Several of our clients tell us they have experienced violent impulses that they have not at the time connected with their service history. They often struggle for a number of years before finding the right treatment to help them. As I have said before, these men and women must be properly supported both when they return from tours of duty and when they are discharged.

Quoted in Metro, the Ministry of Defence deny any link, saying “There is no evidence that suggests domestic violence is a greater problem within the service community than in the civilian community”. They add “MoD policy makes it clear the Armed Forces will not tolerate domestic violence.”

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