Photograph by Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com
Many in our Armed Forces and Veterans community are likely to be affected by the current situation in Afghanistan, including the withdrawal of troops and what has happened since.
This may be particularly so for those who were deployed to Afghanistan, served with colleagues who were deployed, or are family members or loved ones of those who were deployed.
Reporting - including pictures, films and interviews - can trigger post trauma symptoms, such as flashbacks, intrusive and distressing memories, and nightmares. Remembering these experiences may also cause people to feel ‘on edge’, irritable, and anxious.
Some people may experience very difficult thoughts and feelings about what their role was when they were deployed, and what this means now.
These are completely normal responses to this complex and emotional situation. If you are experiencing these problems, you aren’t alone.
Things that can help:
Please do take the time to care for yourself during this difficult time. Here is a list of helpful things that can help manage your mental and physical wellbeing:
- Make sure you eat a healthy diet, and avoid too much caffeine and sugar (or avoid suddenly quitting)
- Avoid alcohol or drugs. If you are concerned about your alcohol and/or drug use, please speak with your GP.
- Make sure you get enough sleep. If you are having problems with sleep, speak to your GP. You can find some helpful information and guidance on the NHS Website, and the Sleeping Well section of the COVID Recovery hub. If you struggle with disturbed sleep and/or nightmares, you may find The Dream Completion Technique helpful, which linked on this website.
- Try to get some fresh air and exercise every day.
- Reach out to someone you know who may be able to spend some time with you. This could be a friend or family member, or one of the support organisations listed below.
- Take part in things you enjoy, bring you comfort, or occupy your mind. This could include books, films, music, photos, videos etc.
- Be kind and nurturing to yourself, do things that make you feel soothed. This could include sensory activities, such as a long hot bath with oils, or getting cosy on the sofa with a blanket and something nice to eat or drink. Or, it might be engaging in something creative such as painting. There are a lot of resources for such activities on the Compassionate Mind Foundation’s website.
- If you have been in the Armed Forces, the Armed Forces Covenant entitles you to priority treatment in civilian services where the treatment is for military related issues. All services should know this, but you should always tell services if you are, or have been, in the Armed Forces.
- You could approach your local primary care talking therapies services for help. In Greater Manchester, the primary care talking therapies service for veterans is delivered by Pennine Care. You can often self-refer or request your GP refers you. There, you might be offered psychological knowledge and skills, and/or therapy to help you with your mental health difficulties. It is possible that you might be referred on to another service that offers different types of support and/or treatment if this is assessed to be more helpful for you.
- Pennine Care offer a Transition Intervention and Liaison Service (TILS) in the North West. This is the single point of access for military veterans’ mental health support. The service provides timely support and advice, and links veterans into the most appropriate service, as quickly as possible. You or a member of your family can make a referral via their online form or you can speak with your GP regarding a referral.
- Combat Stress provide a range of mental health support and resources for veterans, including online self-help resources and a 24/7 helpline.
- Support is also available from a range of national veterans charities, such as Walking With The Wounded, The Royal British Legion, and SSAFA.
- Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust offers a free 24/7 mental health helpline which you can call any time, day or night. You can call on 0800 953 0285 for Greater Manchester and 0800 051 3253 for Wigan.
- Samaritans offer a range of support, including self-help resources, a free 24/7 telephone support service, and email support.
- Shout offers a free 24/7 mental health text support service.
- Mental Health UK has a range of downloadable resources to support mental health and wellbeing on their website.
It’s really important to speak with your GP if you are struggling with your mental health, so that they can consider the best options for you. If you feel there is an urgent risk of harm to yourself or someone else, please contact the emergency services on 999.