MSP calls for better mental health support for armed services


By a Newsnet reporter

Jim Eadie MSP is calling for greater support for service men and women in light of figures revealing more than 9000 soldiers who were in Afghanistan are fighting mental health issues.

Mr Eadie, SNP MSP for Edinburgh Southern, tabled a parliamentary motion congratulating the Daily Record on exposing the issue of returning soldiers’ long-term welfare, and wants a debate in the Scottish Parliament so that the issues highlighted can be addressed.

An investigation by the Daily Record discovered that as many as 10% of service personnel who have returned from duty in Afghanistan suffer mental health problems stemming from their experiences in the war-torn country.  More than 9000 armed services personnel suffer from a range of mental health issues, including depression and mood and anxiety disorders.

500 were diagnosed with more severe forms of mental health problems, including post traumatic stress disorder.  A diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder is only given when the patient is severely impaired in their daily functioning.  Symptoms include flash-backs, nightmares, mood swings, anger and irritability.

The investigation revealed a rising toll of mental health problems amongst service personnel.  Between 2007 and 2010, the total with mental health problems rose from 2,289 to 2,510 – a 9.7% increase.  There was a more dramatic increase amongst those diagnosed with severe post traumatic stress disorder, cases rose from 122 in 2007 to 185 in 2010, a rise of 51%.

Speaking to the newspaper, a spokesperson for the charity Combat Stress, which provides services for soldiers who have left the forces, said:

“We have a caseload of more than 4800 veterans, including 228 who served in Afghanistan and 589 who served in Iraq. As the armed forces continue their high operational tempo, Combat Stress is being approached by more and more veterans who are seeking our help.

“Last year, we received 1443 referrals – a 10 per cent increase on the previous year.”

Mr Eadie commented:

“The mental health of soldiers returning from service overseas is of vital importance, both to the soldiers themselves, their families and society at large.

“Their courage cannot be underestimated as soldiers risk their lives on a daily basis. The very least we can do to repay their efforts is to ensure that they have access to the full range of services in order to readapt to civilian life, and to mitigate any potential health issues such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“The Daily Record is to be congratulated for highlighting that the number of soldiers across the UK facing mental health issues, following their service is on the increase, and is set to rise further in the future.

“We should do everything possible to ensure further steps are taken to enhance the measures available to aid soldiers, and maintain their long-term welfare.”