Veterans and Mental Health
There are a lot of misconceptions about the prevalence of mental ill health, and PTSD in particular, among the veterans community.
It’s true that some veterans do face challenges with mental health as a result of their Service, and mental health services and support remains an area in which we commonly hear about unmet need. We owe it to these veterans to ensure they have timely access to high-quality mental health care and support that is suitable for their needs, wherever they live in Scotland. That includes specialist support and treatment for those most severely impacted by trauma related conditions such as PTSD, anxiety and depression.
However, to help address damaging stereotypes around veterans, it’s also important to acknowledge that the majority of veterans settle into civilian life without experiencing significant mental health issues, and that mental ill health, including PTSD, is experienced by the general population as well.
For veterans who do experience challenges with their mental health, support is available to help them live well and make a positive contribution to civilian society.
However, there are three key areas where we need to see further progress to help ensure this outcome:
Greater awareness of the health and wellbeing implications of serving in and transitioning from the Armed Forces among health care professionals and support staff. My latest progress report showed very encouraging progress in this area, with a successful pilot scheme focused on educating General Practice staff set to be rolled out nationally. I look forward to seeing plans for a similar scheme developed for secondary care environments.
Tackling the stigma within the Forces and veterans communities around seeking support for mental health. Evidence shows that early intervention significantly improves mental health outcomes, so tackling the reluctance to seek help within the community is key. An anti-stigma campaign delivered by See Me was well-received, but this is a large-scale change which will require continued long-term efforts.
Implementation of the principles of the Veterans Mental Health and Wellbeing Action Plan. The 2021 Veterans Mental Health and Wellbeing Action Plan, co-produced by the Scottish Veterans Care Network, was developed in response to an SVC recommendation published in 2018. I am concerned by delays in seeing this achieved as it is crucial in ensuring equal access to mental health and wellbeing support for veterans across Scotland Recent progress has been more encouraging and the Scottish Government must maintain this in order to deliver a timely and effective Veterans Mental Health and Wellbeing Pathway.
Through monitoring progress in these areas and continuing to listen to the voice of Scotland’s veterans community, I hope that we can continue improving support, services, and ultimately outcomes for our veterans.
No veteran should ever suffer disadvantage as a result of their military service when accessing healthcare or mental healthcare services in Scotland.
To read more about my assessment of mental health support and services for Scotland’s veterans, visit the health and wellbeing section of my latest annual progress report.