From the "Nursing Times" – 2009

The terrors of war are never far from the headlines and with UK troops set to return from Iraq by July, treating post-traumatic stress disorder could be a growing part of the work of healthcare professionals. Post-traumatic stress disorder is not new. Many soldiers shot for cowardice in the First World War are thought to have suffered from the condition. Symptoms include flashbacks, depression and hypervigilation, where the individual is constantly on the lookout for danger. It can result in relationship problems, social withdrawal and, in extreme cases, violence. The SAS veteran and best-selling author Andy McNab, best known as a blurry, disguised image when he appears on TV, highlighted this subject in his most recent book. Seven Troop examined the fate of members of his own unit since leaving the forces – two committed suicide, while another murdered his wife. Mr McNab said the UK faces a mental health time bomb by neglecting troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with PTSD. His claim must be taken seriously. Up to 40,000 US troops have been diagnosed, and despite claims that the numbers of UK soldiers with PTSD are low, up to 15% may develop the condition. Lack of adequate treatment is a serious issue – NHS staff should not be asked to cope with troops who have been trained to kill human beings and may have witnessed disturbing violence. Despite claims that ‘robust’ systems are in place, a recent Commons Defence Committee inquiry was told of a soldier sent to an NHS support group attended by women who had just given birth. Contrast this with the US, where a Department of Veterans’ Affairs provides assessment and therapy. We might have to accept that the Americans have got it right. Mr McNab may be reluctant to show his face but he’s not burying his head in the sand.

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