Armed forces have a duty of care long after combat

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The problem with mental illness is that a lot of people do not see it in the same way as they do a physical illness.

People can see a broken leg; they find it difficult to pinpoint the signs of a mental illness.

Most service personnel do not believe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) exists... until they are diagnosed with it.

We live and work in an area awash with serving and former members of the armed forces.

Most of us at one time or another will have heard one of them, usually a man, say: ‘In the navy/army you don’t show anything, not in front of your mates.’ The unspoken rule is that you do not display emotion, of the deepest kind, to your colleagues.

As we report today, former soldier Terry Beale, 57, from Southsea, was just such a case.

At 18 he was patrolling the streets of Northern Ireland and experienced the mind games, and worse, played by the IRA. He bottled it all up and confesses, in the past decade, he twice wanted to kill himself.

He lost his family, friends and home because of what he experienced in the army, even though the PTSD did not manifest itself for many years.

But rather than be beaten by the illness he, with great help from the armed forces charities SSAFA and Combat Stress, has turned his life around and is now helping launch a mentoring group for other veterans fighting the condition.

He says: ‘The number of ex-servicemen who commit suicide every week is just astronomical. If I can do anything, even just to save one life, then that will mean everything to me.’

The repercussions of the most recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan will be felt for decades to come. There will be much work for Terry to do.

We salute him, but is it not high time the armed forces took a much more proactive role in looking after the men and women who put their lives on the line for their country, long after they have swapped a uniform for civvies?