PTSD and other mental health illnesses are a major hole in the lives of those sufferring, their families and communities. It’s difficult for the sufferer to overcome the shame….and symptoms get in the way of recovery. They hinder you from living at the level your used to. It’s difficult to access treatment but when you do it is not consistent. I have become aware of at least 3 others who have been diagnosed with PTSD in the RAF currently and we are all being treated and managed in different ways. What is right in that?!
Years ago PTSD was identified but with a different ‘label’. Shell shock was the name given to soldiers of WW1 who were exposed to the trauma and fighting intensity of battle. They were labeled as having lack of moral fibre. This term was replaced in WW2 by combat exhaustion or combat stress reaction. Initially the casualties were removed quickly from the battlefield in case their behaviour affected their ability to fight. Approximately 40% of casualties suffered shell shock. As the number increased some where kept in the battlefield and told “there is really nothing wrong, take some time, get a good couple of nights sleep and then you will be fit to return to the frontline”. In 1917 the term ‘shell shock’ was banned and no further mention of it was to be made written or verbally. Sadly some casualties of ‘shell shock’ were put on trail accused of cowardice. It was seen as a sign of weakness so it stopped people coming forward. Others could not bear the burden and ended their own life.
That comment yesterday proved that this mentality still exists and I’m just thankful they don’t shoot us at dawn!!! Nothing has really changed much in the way of support towards this hidden injury. Wherever you look there is the same set list of signs and symptoms for PTSD regardless of the cause. As already stated in a previous post there are a number of reasons why someone could be sufferring with PTSD. Exposure to any type of trauma could cause someone to suffer and the assessing criteria remains the same. However it could be difficult to diagnose because most of the symptoms can be masked and linked to other illnesses.
Talking specifically about combat PTSD those in the forces are fully aware that they signed on the dotted line. They are also aware that joining a military force would not be easy. However none of us actually knew what we would actually have to give up so much for a career committed to Queen and country. My colleagues have missed child’s birthdays or other significant family events. I’ve lost count of all the family celebrations I have missed out on. I have given up time with friends and family on so many occasions because I always put the military first, sometimes with little choice in doing so. Throughout deployments etc so many of my comrades ended up with failed marriages due to spending too much time apart from their families. How many military personnel have returned with seriously life changing physical and/or mental injuries. Individuals and their families are having to adjust but without much assistance. The physically wounded are well supported to a degree but hidden injuries are not supported too well.
During my role as SO3 Paramedics I was responsible for the clinical career management of all RAF Paramedics. I was frequently told I was going above and beyond for paramedics and that it wasn’t my job to get involved in some of the things I was doing for them. However, someone needed to look out for them because the system certainly didn’t. These guys where being deployed almost yearly with very little in return. It used to grate on me that people chased recognition from above but never recognised what the troops at ground level where doing for them. The life we once knew before joining up was not now how we knew it but what do we get in return? “You signed the dotted line”. How many would have signed on that line if it was known that so much sacrifice would have to be made for very little if no return from the military.