The number of British Army personnel discharged due to depression has tripled in the past 6 years, figures show.
The figures published earlier this year show 104 personnel were discharged due to depression in 2017/18, up from 32 in 2012/13.
“You’re not depressed, I’ve seen you laughing and joking in the mess”
Unnamed British Army medical officer
There has also been a rise in discharges related to more general mental health issues: 428 in 2017/18, compared to 188 in 2012/13. These include PTSD, adjustment disorders, and stress.
The figures in the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy have remained low and virtually static over the same period.
Whilst the figures are shocking, the explanation may be a positive one. Neil Hallsworth, ex-Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC), told me that ‘mental health and well-being is now a management issue and is routinely discussed in Command’. He suggested that better training and awareness likely explains the rise.
In contrast, prominent former army officer Colonel Richard Kemp told me that increased awareness may ‘have led more soldiers to falsely claim to have problems as a means of gaining discharge’. He believes that instead may in part explain the increase.
A MoD spokesperson said: “We take the mental health of our service personnel extremely seriously, and we encourage anyone in need to take advantage of the wide range of specialist support available.
“Former service personnel who have suffered from mental health issues can continue to access MOD services for up to six months after discharge, to help them during the transition period”.
The figures come amid widespread concern surrounding mental health in the Armed Forces, and in particular veteran suicide. It was revealed earlier this year that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) does not keep a record of the number of ex-servicemen and women taking their lives.
Nonetheless, social media provides a valuable insight into the number. 29-year-old Kevin Williams, who was the youngest British soldier to serve in Iraq when he was deployed on his 18th birthday, is just one of many who committed suicide this year.
The Defence Select Committee is currently conducting an inquiry into ‘Mental Health and the Armed Forces’. Journalist and author Matthew Green told the committee last month of a soldier who was on a 5-month waiting list for PTSD treatment. He killed himself because he “just could not hang on any longer”, having served for 18 years. His 11-year-old son is now suicidal and self-harming. He “wants to die and be with Daddy”.