For many, military service means a career dealing with extreme physical and emotional conditions, including combat, prolonged separation from loved ones, and the constant threat of injury or death. It’s understandable, then, that veterans are at an elevated risk for mental health conditions, and without proper treatment and support, these conditions could potentially have long-term effects. Here, Fear Naught speaks to veterans about the importance of mental health awareness and support.
"I don’t think a lot of people realise it, but maintaining your mental health is such an important part of staying motivated and being able to push yourself to your limit."
Mark ‘Billy’ Billingham, veteran and TV personality
Veterans and Mental Health:
How many veterans have poor mental health?
In the UK alone, roughly one in five veterans experience symptoms of mental illness. This figure is even higher among those who have served in combat roles.
Are veterans more likely to have mental health problems?
According to research, veterans are more likely to have mental health problems compared to the general population. This is due to a range of factors, including exposure to combat, prolonged periods of separation from family and loved ones, and the stress of adjusting to civilian life after leaving the military.
What causes mental health problems in veterans?
The causes of mental health problems in veterans are complex and can vary from individual to individual. Some common risk factors include exposure to combat, traumatic events, and prolonged periods of stress. Veterans may also experience mental health issues as a result of physical health problems resulting from their service.
“When I left the military, I lost my sense of purpose. You take off your uniform and your medals and you’re no longer part of this exclusive club, the best club in the world, that has defined you for however long. I found I was constantly searching for a new purpose, a new role I could play outside of the military.”
Jordan Wylie MBE, veteran and adventurer
Common Mental Health Disorders:
What is the most common mental illness in veterans?
Depression is the most common mental health disorder experienced by veterans. It is estimated that 18% of veterans experience depression at some point after leaving the military.
How common is PTSD in veterans?
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is another common mental health disorder experienced by veterans. It is estimated that 7-8% of veterans in the UK experience PTSD, consisting mostly of those who have served in combat roles.
What are 5 signs of PTSD?
The symptoms of PTSD can vary from person to person, but common signs include:
Intrusive thoughts or memories of the traumatic event(s)
Avoidance of people, places, or things associated with the trauma
‘Hyperarousal’ – otherwise known as feeling constantly on edge
Prolonged negative changes in mood or thinking, such as feeling guilty or blaming oneself for the trauma
Flashbacks or nightmares related to the traumatic event(s)
“I would have panic attacks every day. It was a bad time and led me to become quite depressed. Anxiety and depression are two different things, but for most people, one leads to the other.”
Jason Birch, Ex-SF and founder of the S.F. Experience
How do I know if I need help?
What are signs of mental illness in veterans?
Some common signs of mental illness include:
Feeling sad, hopeless, or worthless
Having trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
Feeling anxious or on edge
Withdrawing from friends and family
Prolonged periods of anger or irritability
Dependence on drugs or alcohol
Having thoughts of self-harm or suicide
If you are a veteran experiencing any of these symptoms, it is important to seek help as soon as possible. Fortunately, there are people and organisations who want to help.
What support can I get as a veteran in the UK?
In the UK, veterans are entitled to a range of free or discounted services, including healthcare, housing, and employment support. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) offers veterans access to mental health services, financial assistance, and housing support, while the NHS also provides a range of mental health services for veterans, including specialist PTSD clinics.
There are also a number of charities and organizations that provide support to veterans and their families, including Combat Stress, the Royal British Legion and Help for Heroes. These organizations offer a range of services, including counselling, welfare support, and financial assistance.
“If you’re in a dark spot, it’s because something bad has already happened. It's already history, so there’s nothing you can do to change it. Maybe it’s the death of a loved one, a relationship breakdown, a fallout. You’re struggling to adapt. It's horrendous, but it’s happened, so the next step is deciding what you’re going to do about it and telling someone who can help you do it. And there's always somebody who will help you. There are people who love you and you should tell them what the problem is. No one can see inside your head apart from you.”
Mark ‘Billy’ Billingham, veteran and TV personality
100% of Fear Naught proceeds go to bereaved military children's charity Scotty’s Little Soldiers, allowing them to support bereaved military children and young people whose parent served in the British Armed Forces. They offer an effective combination of practical, emotional and educational assistance, as well as a range of services designed to connect their members and create a community of bereaved military children built around mutual support.
NHS Resource link:
Common Mental Health Disorders in Military Veterans: