Tuesday, 24 September 2013

The ‘Shadow’ Population of Forces’ Veterans who suffer PTSD without Help

Many UK armed forces’ veterans are suffering from the effects of military trauma but are going without any official diagnosis or help, according to a new survey.

Unknown and untreated, this ‘shadow’ population receives no appropriate medical or counselling support, says charity PTSD Resolution - www.ptsdgive.co.uk. These veterans may number as many as are diagnosed with PTSD through the NHS and healthcare organisations for former servicemen and women.

The latest findings are from a new survey by charity PTSD Resolution, and are a major concern for security industry and other employers.

The charity has a national network of 200 counsellors to help forces’ veterans suffering from military trauma. Resolution successfully treats eight out ten veterans who complete its programme of counselling, it says, but has been turned down for support by Government, NHS and the established forces’ charities and is running out of funds from voluntary donations, says Piers Bishop, director of counselling.

Key findings of the survey are:-

1.     Half of respondents suffering from the symptoms of military trauma – which include nightmares, flashbacks and episodes of anger or terror – have no diagnosis of PTSD, whilst the other half do.

2.     The distribution of symptoms is the same in the diagnosed and undiagnosed groups: they appear to be suffering to the same degree. So in the case of those with a diagnosis, treatment has either not been provided or has not worked effectively

3.     The undiagnosed group have suffered symptoms for an average of 15 years. Many have had meetings with medical practitioners but still never received a diagnosis or an offer of treatment. They are more likely to drink above guideline levels, and to have a diagnosis of alcohol dependency

4.     The PTSD diagnosed group are highly likely to have other diagnoses, generally for depression and other anxiety disorders

5.     All those with either a diagnosis or with probable PTSD are significantly more likely to have suicidal thoughts than those veterans with a sub-clinical level of post-traumatic stress.

Piers Bishop assesses the results of the survey:

“ The diagnosed group are persistent enough, or have social support, or have sufficiently severe symptoms to get a diagnosis of PTSD. The second group may not wish to acknowledge they have a problem perhaps, or do not have social support to go through the pathways to diagnosis: some we have found do not leave their room, or just find it easier or less frightening or humiliating to go to the pub, and attempt to self-manage their symptoms with alcohol.”

There is a population of veterans that are desperate for help with the effects of trauma, concludes Bishop: disturbingly, even the help that is available is often inadequate

“ Unlike with the PTSD support generally available to veterans, PTSD Resolution can offer help that is fast, with an average of just five counselling sessions required on an outpatient basis. No referrals are needed. We’re a very lean organisation: there are no salaried staff or premises. But our funds are running out and the future is very uncertain for the charity - and the veterans we have yet to help.”

The PTSD Resolution survey received completed replies from 472 respondents. The survey can be found at www.ptsdresolution.org/survey.html. It included an IES-E, a self-rating scale for post-traumatic stress.

For further information: PTSD Resolution www.ptsdgive.co.uk. Tel 0845 021 7873. e-mail sb@ptsdresolution.org