On Friday 17th April TAP welcomed Matthew Neave, a former Captain in the Royal Engineers who spoke about combat stress in veterans and service personnel. Matthew is not a therapist but is a member of the Samaritans’ Festival branch, who attend concerts such as Pilton and are available to talk to people who are experiencing emotional difficulties. He found himself talking to veterans who had never had a discussion with anyone about things in their service life. He also found that the other Samaritans had little experience or knowledge of the service culture. Many service people join at 18 and have little or no experience of the wider world. Most officers are graduates and have a little more. The purpose of the talk was to give those attending an outline of the context of service life.
Matthew spoke about the differing experiences of men and women who had served in Northern Ireland, the Gulf war which was more of a conventional war, Bosnia, Iraq and Afghanistan. Each of these had their own character.
Most servicemen had not been engaged in fire fights. In his opinion firefighters, paramedics and police saw more trauma in their career. However, there were other stresses, especially for medics and bomb disposal. But there are many who have suffered and Combat Stress-the Veterans’ mental health charity- reckon that on average veterans wait 13 years after discharge before seeking help, by which time the condition can be complex. The organisation is supporting almost 6.000 men and women. Last year saw a 26% increase in referrals.
Matthew explained some of the ways that service people will try to cope and why they don’t’ come forward earlier. The MOD don’t track after discharge unlike the US, but he felt that they were taking the problem seriously and making improvements.
Our thanks to Matthew for talking about this important subject.