Friday, March 15, 2013

'Violence risk' after military tours - Research by King's College London

King's College London have today published a report describing how younger members of the armed forces returning from duty are more likely to commit violent offences than the rest of the population. 

Researchers analysed data from nearly 14,000 UK service personnel who had served in wars in Iraq or Afghanistan.   They highlighted a particular issue in younger men and those who had combat roles or who had experienced a traumatic experience.  The results in the Lancet medical journal come 10 years after the start of the war in Iraq.

Prof Simon Wessely, from King's College London said, "Those who are in combat roles are themselves slightly different from those who are not."

"The military don't select chess-playing choir boys. They select people who often come from difficult and aggressive backgrounds and they're the ones who are most likely to end up in the parts of the military that do the actual fighting".

All that said, the fact that the MOD asked for the study and has now publicly acknowledged the problem is a major step forward.  Now we must all work to address the needs.

In doing so, we must also understand that for some the problems do not arise until many years after leaving the service.  This includes increasing numbers of individuals self-harming and attempting / committing suicide and sleeping rough on our streets and in our countryside.   Evidence shows that these mental health problems have existed for many years and can evidenced following other conflicts such as Northern Ireland, Falklands War and Bosnia. 

Critically, once  the individual has left the military the problem relies on the NHS and the Voluntary sector picking up the pieces.   Sadly, until now, the reaction of society to these acts of violence has been to send the individuals to prison; an act of retribution that is supposed to help address their problems!  I wonder if we are now, at last, beginning to learn that this is not appropriate?

Unfortunately, too few professionals understand the issues and how the military life has impacted upon the individual's mind and the lives of their families.  More awareness training is required.  That said, clearly today's new is a good start and we must now build upon it. 

Here in Devon, 29 different public, private and VCS organisations are developing a new project called the Veterans Change Partnership.  The consortia intend to provide a programme of coordinated rehabilitation post custody, and an alternative to custody as a means of diverting veterans away from the justice system.  It will include pre course motivation and assessment sessions, an 11 week residential and positive experiential period of personal development, skills training and therapy work, followed by peer mentoring into accommodation and work.  Efforts are currently being made to secure start up and ongoing funding.

The project is currently being led by Trevor Philpott, a former Lt Col RM who has been involved in promoting penal reform for the last 15 years.  More information can be found at 

No comments: