At Veterans' Gateway, we know that combat situations, combined with the difficulties of returning to civilian life can lead to a range of mental health issues, from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to employability challenges.
As the first point of contact for veterans, our latest campaign (September 2018) highlights some key themes and information to make your life easier.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
"PTSD is the mother of all anxiety disorders. For most, avoidance is the best way to deal with it and you learn to avoid anything to do with your trauma. This avoidance can lead to isolation and the need to feel numb, which is often accomplished with the use of alcohol, cannabis and other various substances. The problem is that the mind works as a kind of filing system and those memories will be filed away to resurface at some later point." Dr. Walter Busuttil, Director of Medical Services at Combat Stress.
Alcohol and Substance Misuse
"Alcohol affects the way people deal with difficult circumstances. It starts during service. There is a big culture of drinking to keep up morale, but then there can be difficult situations where maybe a friend has been injured or, worse, killed. Drinking is not the best or most constructive way of dealing with that type of stress." Dr. Walter Busuttil.
It's also not uncommon for those who have left active duty to turn to substances such as prescription and illegal drugs to cope with the levels of stress they encounter.
The first step to recovery is to acknowledge that there is a problem and to seek help. Many veterans visiting their GP found that they weren't understood. Mental health experts advise to keep returning, as a solution can usually be found.
See our article, which includes useful steps to take when dealing with substance abuse.
Veterans are at particular risk of depression due to life-changing injuries and trying to adjust to civilian life.
In our depression guide, we provide more background information, sources of help and useful partners to contact.
If a veteran returns with emotional problems, it's important for their spouse to look out for signs of potential PTSD. These signs may include difficulties sleeping, anxiety in public places, irritability, a need for isolation and difficulties communicating.
It can take time for everybody to readjust, and communication is important in re-establishing a safe and happy environment for everyone.
See our suggestions for supporting your family during this time.
In general, veterans are highly employable. Most will possess some kind of specialist or transferable skill and their work ethic is something that is highly sought in the job market.
Watch Pete and Colin's story below. With help from Combat Stress they found the help they needed and recovered from PTSD .