Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: The evil our military refuses to see

As a sufferer of PTSD, our writer explores the establishment's response to cases

Share
Related Topics

“I think you’ve got stress… and low mood”

The doctor nodded sagely. He was wrong. While I was stressed and low at the time these were the least of the symptoms I’d reported. By no stretch of the English language - or of medical analysis - do nightmares, broken sleep, hyper-vigilance and jumping at unexpected noises belong under the headings of stress or low mood.

In my view, that doctor was adhering to standard operating procedures amongst military quacks: if it looks like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, diagnose it down a notch or seven. Many years later, I would be escorted from military prison to Harley Street where a proper head-doctor would diagnose me – emphatically, unequivocally – as having post-traumatic stress disorder. He marvelled at the first diagnosis.

While awaiting my trial, I spoke to another doctor who told me that in military medical circles it is something of a policy to diagnose PTSD down to the next level, which is “adjustment disorder”. Why? I do not know. I suspected at the time that military wanted to avoid the financial outlay required to treat the condition. Nowadays I’m inclined to think that the army are betraying their duty of care to avoid being sued, and because of an approaching epidemic.

The Harley Street doctor had ruled PTSD. So when the time came for the military’s own prosecution report, I kept the Harley Street findings from their military psychiatrist as a test. Sure enough he seemed to be trying to talk them down. As he was winding up the assessment I ruined his day with the existing report. He read it in silence and appeared to grow more sullen with each page. He diagnosed me with adjustment disorder and, it seemed to me grudgingly, possible PTSD.

Post-traumatic stress, we should be clear, is not a gauge of toughness. The combat arms of the military – Special Forces, pilots, infantrymen - do not have a monopoly on trauma and having the condition is not a bragging point. Trauma is relative; the toughest guy in the toughest battalion can crack, while the same experience will be shrugged off by a portly, bookish army clerk. The job you do has little or no bearing on whether you are affected by what you’ve seen or experienced, regardless of whether author, SAS veteran and establishment favourite Andy McNab thinks PTSD is the new ‘bad back’ for those trying toget out of the army. The figures say otherwise and to argue this is to throw up yet another macho barrier between traumatised soldiers and treatment.

Only recently, in a BBC radio debate on Prince Harry’s blasé comparison of Xbox games to the killing of Afghans, the presenter asked me if Captain Wales could possibly get PTSD from killing people in a hi-tech Apache Helicopter. The presenter didn’t seem to be expecting a yes; but he got one. Even drone ‘pilots’ get PTSD and with a 50:1 civilian-to-insurgent kill ratio in some theatres you can understand why. That said, given that Harry’s family has its own royal doctors, I’ll save my concern for the working class soldiers who’ll have to rely on a mutilated NHS down the line.

It’s difficult to predict who will manifest PTSD. Though there are efforts within US military circles to screen and filter out those who are likely to succumb. It does make you think doesn’t it? If war is “human nature” why are so many veterans killing themselves because they can’t live with what they have seen and done?

In the US today a veteran commits suicide at an estimated rate of one per hour. There are few firm figures for British soldiers and veterans; I expect that the statistics will have to be clawed from some shrieking MOD official. What we do know is that more Falklands veterans have killed themselves since that war then died during it. Even if the military does eventually try to catch up with its obligations, this problem seems likely to get worse. If there is an average of ten to fourteen years between traumatic events and symptoms, we should be conscious that the tenth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq is coming.

After my misdiagnosis by the military, I went back to self-medicating with booze in my room. One of the other blokes in my dilapidated accommodation block knocked on my door. He had just moved back into the block after his latest broken marriage. I related the story to him and he tapped his head. “You’re a bit mad is all” He offered in true squaddie style.

“I was driving and I hit a kid on tour; we couldn’t stop in case we got ambushed. Still messes with me.’

‘Did you tell them?” I asked him.

“Yeah” he said “…but they just keep sending me back on tour.”

The image used to illustrate this article is not a picture of the author

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: how to spell BBQ and other linguistic irregularities

Guy Keleny
 

South Africa's race problem is less between black and white than between poor blacks and immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa

John Carlin
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own