I don't normally watch Panorama - I watched it once and didn't stop crying for three days. But, I may have accidentally ordered take away and I accidentally happened to be sitting infront of the TV when this evening's episode started.
It's also not very often that I blog about things I see on TV, but the topic of tonight's Panorama Special episode was one that really interests me - the high rate of (unreported) suicide in British veterans.
In this documentary, the reporter meets families of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) victims, many of whom were afraid to ask for help and felt their only option was to take their own lives. Many of these men returned from Afghanistan where they saw their friends, colleagues and innocent civilians die in horrendous situations. Many of these men left military service soon after returning home. All of these men showed signs of PTSD although, as the documentary points out, these signs often don't show until years later.
The reporter met one veteran who had been diagnosed with PTSD and was given counselling. Three sessions. Half an hour each. That's one and a half hours.
I don't even know where to start with how angry I am right now.
ONE AND A HALF HOURS?!
I've been seeing a counsellor for over nine months now, and I've never been in a combat zone. I've never seen someone die, horrifically or not, and the only time I've seen a corpse was in an open casket at a funeral in south America (and she was old). In those nine months, I've only just finished scraping the top off my issues and have only started tackling the actual problems in the last couple of weeks.
My point - which genius decided 1.5 hours was enough to "fix" a deep-rooted issue like PTSD?! Give them a knighthood... Oh wait, they probably already have one.
To make it worse, the reporter met families of victims whose medical records were "lost" en route to the NHS, who weren't given the correct mental health risk assessments (a direct breach of MoD procedure, by the way), whose medical records (when they weren't "lost") said repeatedly that individuals were showing moderate risk of suicide, followed by delays to inquests and no compensation because PTSD "was not diagnosed during service". So basically, "thanks for going and doing a hard job in a country where we put your life on the line every single day, now go away now. You're someone else's problem now. Bye."
AND there is no record of what happens to veterans after they leave service.
Now, I know a few people who are, or have been, in the military. I don't pretend to know anything at all about what being in the military or in a combat zone is like, and I really hope I never have to find out. But I do have an incredible amount of respect for those men and women who do know what it's like. I really hope that, if they ever do need help, someone will take the time to actually listen and to support them.
If you can, watch the documentary here.