MoD 'unprepared' to handle mental trauma

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The first commanding officer to take troops into Helmand has criticised the Ministry of Defence for being "surprisingly unprepared" to deal with the mental trauma suffered by veterans of Afghanistan.

Writing in The Independent today, Colonel Stuart Tootal said he had seen some of his bravest soldiers suffer from the debilitating nature of psychological injuries. Col Tootal led the 3rd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment, into Helmand in the summer of 2006 when it endured some of the fiercest fighting the British Army had encountered since Korea. There was increasing evidence, he said, that the number of soldiers suffering from combat stress exceeded the official figures and cases would rise over the next decade.

"The Ministry of Defence has been surprisingly unprepared to deal with psychological implications of sending soldiers to serve in Afghanistan given the experiences of Northern Ireland, the Falklands and Iraq," said the senior officer who resigned two years ago.

Despite improvements, he said, too few veterans knew how to get help and there was too much emphasis on relying on charities to provide treatment.

Defence minister Kevan Jones said: "The MoD takes the mental health of our personnel extremely seriously," saying a series of projects had been set up.