Britain’s ‘forgotten generation’ of impoverished, mentally damaged military veterans

© Mohammad Ismail
Military veterans who join young and have difficult backgrounds are most likely to suffer once they leave the services, a new study has found.

The investigation, titled “The New Frontline,” looks at a number of issues faced by Britain’s younger generation of veterans.

It was organized by the armed forces charity SSAFA to look at what the group’s director calls a “forgotten generation” of veterans who are scraping by on low incomes with few prospects.

Our research has identified a cohort of veterans living in pretty desperate circumstances, often through no fault of their own. These men and women are not fulfilling their potential in civilian life; their plight is too easily ignored,” former Air Vice-Marshal David Murray said in the report.

The study found that of 1,000 veterans under 65 polled around half do not have enough money to buy basic essentials and up to half are out of work.

Those who joined up young, and who had traumatic childhoods, were found to be more likely to struggle later.

The study draws upon a number of case studies.

David Swift, who enlisted at age 17 and served in the infantry, was active in Bosnia.

He told SSAFA that when soldiers leave the military “you don’t know how to be a civilian. All your bills have been paid for you, you don’t have to want for anything, you have people doing lots for you, and all you have to do is your job.

I had gone from being this tough young lad who believed himself to be the best of the best to being a very depressed guy who couldn’t do anything.

I felt I had no one with me after having 600 to 800 lads around me.

Feelings of isolation can be exacerbated by mental health issues. The charity found “six out of 10 SSAFA veterans have been formally diagnosed as currently suffering from depression, anxiety, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or other conditions.

The report showed the highest rates of PTSD are among First Gulf War veterans, at 49 percent, with Falklands War veterans in second place at 46 percent.

Afghanistan and Iraq veterans have the third and fourth highest rates with 43 percent and 41 percent respectively.

Commenting on the report, Field Marshall Lord Guthrie, a former head of the army, said: “It identifies a group of veterans who feel undervalued and under-appreciated, who are slipping through the net when we, as a society, could prevent that happening.