‘Shadow’ Population of Forces’ Veterans who suffer PTSD without Help


Many UK armed forces’ veterans are suffering from the effects of military trauma, but are going without any official diagnosis or help according to a new survey of 3,000 former armed forces’ personnel conducted by charity PTSD Resolution.

Unknown and untreated, this ‘shadow’ population receives no appropriate medical or counselling support, says PTSD Resolution; they may number as many veterans as are diagnosed with PTSD through the NHS and healthcare organisations for former servicemen and women.

PTSD Resolution has a national network of 200 counsellors that helps forces’ veterans, reservists and their families suffering from military trauma. A short informational video ‘Drop the Mask’ has just been launched.

Resolution successfully treats most of those veterans who complete its programme of counselling, but needs more support from Government, the NHS and other established forces’ charities, says Piers Bishop, Director of counselling.

Key findings of the PTSD Resolution survey of 3,000 veterans are:-

  1. Over 80% of respondents had a clinical level of post-traumatic symptoms such as nightmares, flashbacks and episodes of anger or terror.

  2. Under half (42%) of these had a formal diagnosis of PTSD

  3. The undiagnosed veterans are suffering just as much as those with a diagnosis – and those who do have a diagnosis have either not been treated or the treatment has not worked effectively

  4. The undiagnosed group have suffered symptoms for an average of 15 years. Many have had meetings with medical practitioners but still never received a diagnosis or an offer of treatment. They are more likely to drink above guideline levels, and to have a diagnosis of alcohol dependence

  5. The PTSD diagnosed group are highly likely to have other diagnoses, generally for depression and other anxiety disorders

  6. In plain terms this suggests about half of our traumatised veterans are able to access medical services but the other half resort to alcohol instead

  7. Crucially, everyone with a either a diagnosis or with undiagnosed probable PTSD are significantly more likely to have suicidal thoughts than veterans who are not experiencing clinical levels of post-traumatic stress symptoms.


Piers Bishop assesses the results of the survey:

“The diagnosed group are persistent enough, or have social support, or have sufficiently severe symptoms to get a diagnosis of PTSD. The second group may not wish to acknowledge they have a problem perhaps, or do not have social support to go through the pathways to diagnosis: some we have found do not leave their room, or just find it easier or less frightening or humiliating to go to the pub, and attempt to self-manage their symptoms with alcohol.”

“These results are not a surprise to organisations like Resolution that work with veterans; every week we meet people who have been suffering for years and have not previously been able to find effective help.

“As part of Resolution’s research remit we are now launching a new survey to collect more information about the veteran’s journey through mental health services: how long people have to wait for treatment; where they go; how long they have to wait and, crucially, their positive and negative experiences of treatment in different settings and success rates.

“Unlike with the PTSD support generally available to veterans, PTSD Resolution can offer help that is local and fast, with an average of just five counselling sessions required on an outpatient basis. No referrals are needed. We’re a very lean organisation: there are no salaried staff or premises. But the number of veterans seeking help continues to increase and so we are constantly looking for new means of support.”

The PTSD Resolution survey received completed replies from over 5,000 respondents, of whom over 3,000 filled in a self-rating scale for post-traumatic stress.

For further information about PTSD Resolution see www.ptsdresolution.org; or ring 0300 302 0551; or email contact@ptsdresolution.org.