UK Troops Returning From
Iraq With 'Severe Mental Illness'
By Severin Carrell
The Independent - UK
Military psychiatrists have warned of a sharp rise in the number of British troops returning from Iraq with severe mental illnesses, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.
Soldiers in the Gulf are suffering from high stress levels because the war is so unpopular at home and they are unhappy about their role in Iraq, health experts have revealed. The country's leading charity for soldiers with mental illness, Combat Stress, claims this has meant far more soldiers are becoming ill with psychiatric problems than during the first Gulf War in 1991.
The last set of official figures revealed that in the 12 months since the start of the war in March 2003, more than 460 soldiers were treated for mental health problems. Of those, 52 soldiers were diagnosed as having post-traumatic stress disorder.
Combat Stress, which runs three residential centres for ex-soldiers with mental health problems, is already treating 16 men who have been discharged from the armed forces after serving in Iraq due to mental illness.
Captain Leigh Skelton, the charity's director of clinical services, told the IoS it was preparing for even more cases because soldiers were reacting badly to their peacekeeping duties. "We predict there will be a lot of casualties coming back with these doubts: 'We were there under false pretences, we shouldn't have been there in the first place, or I killed someone for no good reason'," he said.
The Ministry of Defence is expected to confirm this week that hundreds of soldiers have suffered from mental health problems over the past 18 months, including scores of troops suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
Evidence that some troops are being affected by the rows over the legality and morality of the occupation surfaced after the deaths on Thursday of three soldiers from the Black Watch. Private Craig Lowe, whose brother Paul was one of the men killed, said he and his brother believed President George Bush went to war for oil and money. "They should just get the boys out of there now. If not, we're going to lose a lot more than this," he said.
© 2004 Independent News & Media (UK) Ltd.



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