Military veterans: Common mental health concerns and where to find support

22nd March 2023

While we may picture military veterans as being elderly with a long history in the armed forces, the reality is that even those serving a matter of days still count, regardless of age. The intensity of being in the armed forces, particularly if you have experienced or witnessed traumatic scenes, can take its toll on your mental health for years afterward. This is why it’s so important to spot any symptoms, either within yourselves or in loved ones and understand how you can seek help.

Concerns over veterans’ mental health

Due to the traumatic settings, they may be exposed to, veterans are more likely to be affected by mental health disorders than the general public. Several factors can exacerbate poor mental health among veterans. Being away from loved ones, experiencing injuries or enduring stressful conditions with a likelihood of trauma around the corner can all contribute.

Reports by charities and experienced military solicitors highlight the lack of support for veterans, and many may feel this to the extent that they want to explore the possibility of making claim, in which case legal help from experienced entities is available.

Most common mental health concerns 

Anyone who has experienced trauma or lived in distressing conditions is at risk of mental health concerns. While most British military personnel don’t experience severe mental health problems either during their time in the armed forces or upon their return, a number of people will experience certain disorders. According to the Mental Health Foundation, common examples among those in the armed forces might include:

  • Anxiety disorders
  • Depression
  • Alcoholism

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can also occur; however, this is generally low in the British Armed Forces. This is where people relive traumatic moments, from military combat to assault, when a trigger arises. People may find themselves avoiding certain scenarios that remind them of this event to avoid triggers, therefore missing out on what may have been a normal activity beforehand.

Available help and new initiatives

The NHS has launched a service for those who served in the armed forces that are going through severe mental health problems called the Veterans’ Mental Health High Intensity Service (HIS). One case study includes an NHS project where veterans work together to upkeep an allotment in Bristol. Seemingly simple hobbies and tasks, particularly when teamwork is involved, can make a big impact on those struggling with their mental health or trauma. It helps to create routine, which otherwise may be compromised.

Veterans are also encouraged by the Government to seek support from The Samaritans 24-hour helpline, get medical help through the Veterans’ Gateway or make the most of charities like Combat Stress.