COMMENT: Time to end the barriers to soldiers needing help

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We expect a great deal of our armed forces and, as we report today, the horrors of war can affect them long after they have left the battlefield.

A study of ex-military personnel carried out in Portsmouth, as we report on page 7 today, has revealed that, as they grow older, they spend more time in hospital than other groups, costing the NHS an estimated £669,000.

The reseach, published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine, said many veterans had a long history of alcohol abuse and that there were many barriers that prevented them from seeking help.

Some of those may be self-imposed, and a veteran who has spoken to The News admits he waited too long to get help.

He advised other veterans who were hitting the bottle and storing up potential health problems to ‘swallow their pride’ and get help.

The charity Combat Stress warned that hundreds more veterans could be facing a health crisis if action wasn’t taken.

Recent speeches by Princes William and Harry have brought mental health issues more into the open, and part of the solution to this problem may be a greater willingness to discuss the perils of alcoholism too.

Many might sympathise with veterans who turn to alcohol to cope with the mental scars they face after returning home from the battlefield.

We now know that post-traumatic stress disorder can manifest itself in many ways.

The military must strive to provide a robust support network for former personnel and educate them to ignore the stigma of military pride that may be deterring them from seeking help when they need it.

They are there for us in times of crisis, after all.

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