Top officer's calls for mental tests ignored

Colonel's report on formal assessments for injured soldiers is filed away

Urgent calls by a senior army officer that there should be targeted psychological assessment for seriously wounded soldiers returning from Afghanistan have been ignored for 18 months.

In an internal document dated November 2007, Lt-Col Andrew Whiteley called for immediate action to deal with the mental anguish of troops suffering from horrendous wounds, but his appeal was met with a "deafening silence".

In 2007, during one of the bloodiest tours of Helmand, Lt-Col Whiteley, a senior officer in charge of welfare for 12 Mechanised Brigade, conducted a study on the psychological impact of trauma injuries. In his report he recommended that: "A systematic approach to the early diagnosis of mental health problems in service personnel who have suffered trauma injury is introduced as a matter of urgency."

While the document commended the physical care given to men returning with amputations, burns or gunshot wounds, it found that little was being done to handle the mental devastation of such life-changing injuries – in contrast to American procedures.

It pointed out that there did not appear to be a system of formal mental health assessment for wounded soldiers, or any UK research into the mental impact of such injuries.

Lt-Col Whiteley wrote that as many as 10 per cent of British soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan would develop mental health problems.

The report was passed to the Deputy Chief of Staff, then Major Neil Allison, and to the headquarters of 3rd (UK) Mechanised Division for "action". But no system was implemented. It appears the report has simply been filed away.

"From the response I had while writing it, I doubt it was ever taken any further," Lt-Col Whiteley told The Independent. "The fact is the UK MoD [Ministry of Defence] had been in denial about this issue since the Falklands."

Lt-Col Whiteley, who was a reservist at the time of the report and has since left the forces, said: "There are regular examinations but it is all on the physical side. There is no medical health screening programme. It is up to the individual soldier or family. I feel very strongly there should be mandatory screening and regular, frequent checks."

An MoD spokesman said that all seriously injured servicemen and women were assessed for their physical and psychological needs at facilities in the UK, at Selly Oak and the Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre at Headley Court, and received anxiety and depression assessment as well as more specialist care if required. The ministry said that while reports such as the one by Lt Col Whiteley were welcomed, they were not always reacted to as it chose to take an ongoing proactive approach to care of the injured.

Case study: 'There is no place to go'

Lance Corporal Mark Dryden was serving in Basra, southern Iraq, with the 1st Battalion, The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, when on 20 November 2005 a roadside bomb tore through his armoured Land Rover, killing his friend Sgt John Jones and leaving him an amputee.

Back in the UK, he suffered nightmares, flashbacks, paranoia and mood swings and he contemplated suicide. It took a year before he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, and a further four months before he was visited by a mental health nurse.

He said the Army catered for his physical injuries but not his mental ones. Today, Cpl Dryden, 31, who has been medically discharged from the Army, has started to rebuild his life and is taking a sports psychology degree. He still struggles with his mental wounds but, as a veteran, he is no longer the responsibility of the Army and must seek help from the NHS. He said: "Where do you go? For soldiers who have been in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is no place. I could go to my GP but he'll just give me Prozac."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister
TVSPOILER ALERT: It's all coming together as series returns to form
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine