Ex-soldier’s battle for mental health — (BBC News)

SSRI Ed note: Veteran claims that prolonged combat causes severe stress, leads to problems, antidepressants do nothing to solve.

To view original article click here

BBC News

Mr Macrae believes prolonged deployments can cause problems

John Macrae was a pilot in the RAF until depression forced him to give up flying and eventually his 19-year RAF career altogether.

The 51-year-old, who is now retired on a war pension, says the stiff-upper-lip culture in the military made his illness worse and that after he left the service the treatment he received from his GP was completely inadequate.

“The thing is you’re under a lot of pressure, in the military in general, to conform to the standard, so therefore you struggle on, which means these problems can build up.

“You’re not meant to have problems, particularly in a position of leadership, because there is an overarching sense that should you show weakness in any particular area, then that’s your career over.”

‘You’re locked in’

Mr Macrae says one thing that makes work-related mental health issues worse for soldiers is a sense of being trapped.

“In the services you’re locked in, you can’t just leave, you can’t just say I’m not coming back, you can’t just resign.”

Before Mr Macrae left the RAF in 1997 he served in the UK, Germany, the US and on various deployments including a combat tour in Croatia.

He did not want to go into the causes of his illness in detail, but said his problems were more to do with stress brought on by unfair treatment by his superiors than from experiences from active service.

But he said a major contributor to mental illness among servicemen is the increased frequency of deployments for longer periods and greater separation of families that this incurs.

Mr Macrae says none of the treatment he has received has really addressed his problems.

He says the RAF treated him while he was still a member of the service with a course of anti-depressants and then for an additional year after he left with appointments to a psychologist.

Special debt

He says the psychotherapy did help him understand his problem to a degree, but the anti-depressants did not help at all.

Then after a year he went to a local GP who he says had no understanding of his needs.

He says he is not quite sure why the RAF treatment stopped, but he believes it was a combination of his own disillusionment, the fact he had to travel 120 miles round trip to do it, and a sense that the RAF no longer saw it as their problem as he had left the service.

Mr Macrae says the GP just gave him tablets, offered him the occasional “review” which did not achieve anything, and finally told him to leave.

“I used to have the odd angry outburst from time to time, and the reaction of the GP was to throw me out. They said ‘forget it, off you go. We will no longer treat you’.”

Mr Macrae believes people who have been in the military have special requirements and are owed a special debt.

“They hand them over to the NHS and the NHS just treats them as a number. But their needs are particular and the average doctor has no knowledge of combat stress.

“We know from history what combat does to people and within the service they are doing good things, but the NHS is not equipped to deal with that.

“I’m sure there are people who are [coming back] from Iraq and Afghanistan which are much, much worse, I mean tragic.

“When you have an illness that was caused by the service of that country I don’t believe you should be just passed off to a convenient agency, I believe you should be under the care of specialists.”