Leading article: The invisible wounds of war

Share
Related Topics

Paying tribute to servicemen who risk their lives for their country is a ritual that we British take very seriously. Nationwide celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Britain are coming to an end. Almost every week when Parliament is sitting, Prime Minister's Questions begins with a solemn tribute to the latest fatal casualties, heard in respectful silence.

The medical treatment of injured soldiers, notably at the military clinic in Selly Oak hospital, has improved dramatically in recent years, so that men are now being returned to civilian life after treatment for injuries that would certainly have been fatal in previous conflicts.

But there is an aspect of our attitude to war veterans that does us no credit as a nation. It is our treatment of those who come back without visible injuries, but who have witnessed such horrors that they find insuperable difficulties in re-adjusting to civilian life.

These psychological injuries are lasting. The symptoms may not show themselves for years. The charity Combat Stress, which launched a £30m fundraising appeal earlier this year, calculates that on average it takes a soldier 14 years from leaving the Army to stepping forward to seek help – if they seek help at all.

Some leave it too long. Our report today reveals that ex-veterans make up the biggest single professional group in prison. These men, who are mostly ex-army, are generally way above the average age of men who commit serious offences. More than half are over 45. Nearly a third are over 55, when less than a tenth of the prison population overall is over 50. When an ex-serviceman goes to prison, it is likely to be for something more serious than mere dishonesty. The crimes that veterans who have turned criminal typically commit are not theft, burglary or fraud. Two out of three committed sexual, violent, or drugs related crimes.

Given the scale and length of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, this is a problem that will be with us for many more years, long after the last British soldier has left Helmand Province.

It is incumbent on our political leaders to ensure that the Army and health service do more to provide psychological support for members of our forces who have returned to Civvy Street. And as a society we need to show greater awareness that the wounds of war are often hidden from view.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

(Senior) IT Support Engineer - 1st-3rd Line Support

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful IT service provider that has bee...

Wind Farm Civil Design Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principal Marine Mechanical Engineer

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Principle Geotechnical Engineer

£55000 - £65000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitmen...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A Russian hunter at the Medved bear-hunting lodge in Siberia  

Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

Oliver Poole
Save the Tiger: Meet the hunters tasked with protecting Russia's rare Amur tiger

Hunters protect Russia's rare Amur tiger

In an unusual move, wildlife charities have enlisted those who kill animals to help save them. Oliver Poole travels to Siberia to investigate
Transfers: How has your club fared in summer sales?

How has your club fared in summer sales?

Who have bagged the bargain buys and who have landed the giant turkeys
Warwick Davis: The British actor on Ricky Gervais, how the Harry Potter set became his office, and why he'd like to play a spy

'I'm a realist; I know how hard this business is'

Warwick Davis on Ricky Gervais, Harry Potter and his perfect role
The best swim shorts for men: Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer

The best swim shorts for men

Bag yourself the perfect pair and make a splash this summer
Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Has Ukip’s Glastonbury branch really been possessed by the devil?

Meet the couple blamed for bringing Lucifer into local politics
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup