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Agenda:

Today is Armed Forces Day.

Alongside Remembrance Sunday, it is a day that provides an important opportunity for the nation to commemorate, and reflect on, the personal sacrifices made by members of the British Armed Forces.

While today's celebrations in Stirling and the rest of the UK are dedicated to those still serving around the world, one significant group must not be overlooked: the 4.5 million veterans whose service, often at a great personal mental or physical cost, helped secure our national interests.

These men and women do not consider themselves to be heroes. However, they deserve our recognition and gratitude for the sacrifices they have made. Armed Forces Day was originally known as Veterans' Day. Launched in 2006, the day was intended to remind people that a veteran can be any age from 18 to 110; not just those who survived the Somme or the beaches of Normandy.

At Combat Stress, the UK's Veterans' mental health charity, we support and treat more than 800 veterans in Scotland who fought in the Falklands, Bosnia, the first Gulf War and, more recently, those who served so valiantly in Iraq and Afghanistan.

These ex-servicemen and women are turning to Combat Stress for support to treat conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety. On average, veterans wait 13 years after service discharge before seeking help, by which time their condition can be highly complex and destructive of their lives and those closest to them.

Throughout the First World War, the catalyst for Combat Stress's foundation, thousands of soldiers returned home suffering from shell shock. Many were sent to Edinburgh's Craiglockhart War Hospital for treatment, the most famous including war poets Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon.

The founding mothers of Combat Stress, and they were mainly women, believed that those coming home from war could be helped through talking about their trauma and taking part in a work rehabilitation programme.

Doctors also believed this to be an excellent form of therapy as work provided the men with financial security and restored their sense of masculinity.

While the nature of conflict has changed considerably, conditions such as PTSD still affect service personnel and veterans. Figures from the Ministry of Defence reveal that, over the past 10 years, some 11,000 serving members of the military have been diagnosed with mental ill-health, with PTSD recording a notable increase over the past four years.

These 11,000 individuals represent a significant proportion of those personnel serving in the armed forces. Most of the 25,000 people who leave the Armed Forces each year transfer successfully to civilian life.

However, four per cent are at risk of developing PTSD and 20 per cent are at risk of developing a common mental health condition.

We provide specialist clinical treatment and welfare support to ensure those veterans who have served their country receive the high level of care they deserve. In Scotland, we run a treatment centre in Ayrshire, Hollybush House, alongside our community and outreach service and 24-hour Helpline.

I would like people to understand that we cannot deploy our young people to war zones and not expect some of them to return home traumatised.

These brave ex-servicemen and women have given significant service to our country and we owe them a significant debt.

We can start to repay this by understanding what they have gone through and by giving them the respect and support they require to get their lives back on track.

So, today, let us take a moment to thank all of our serving and former serving men and women and, in particular, turn our thoughts to those who, in their heads, are still fighting to return to normality. We salute you all.

Contextual targeting label: 
Health

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