Soldiers fake mental trauma symptoms to win respect, claims veterans charity boss
Ed Parker, head of Walking with the Wounded, told the Times on Friday he believes “the PTSD label has become one that is very engaging.”
“We have all got to raise money. We have all got to maintain a front to the public and as the conflict disappears into the past our ability to talk about the physical injuries actually declines.”
He said the rise in the number of PTSD charities among the estimated 300 organizations working with veterans in the UK is due to the decline in injured soldiers coming home since combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan officially ended in 2014.
“PTSD has become the headline of veteran mental health but actually it is a very small part of the problem,” he said.
“You are always going to slightly sensationalize how you fundraise. You do that with a Mars advert or buying a McDonald’s. You are always going to make it look better than it actually is, or more enticing.”
Charities are all competing to get funding through donations and this has led to a kind of race to the bottom in terms of PR and marketing, he said.
“We have got to be more interesting than [the charity] Combat Stress, which has got to be more interesting than Help for Heroes because we are all fishing in the same pot. Maybe you could say I am being a bit naive as to how we market ourselves. But I worry that … the bare facts are beginning to be lost.”
Parker also insisted he had met veterans who actively looked for a PTSD diagnosis “because it sits alongside being an amputee.”
“It could bring you alongside these amazing people who have survived off the battlefield.
“The heroes. It is a terribly uncomfortable conversation to have and it is one I have had with people. But to be blunt, it’s reality and it’s a problem that we [the charity sector] are making,” he said.
Walking with the Wounded was founded by Parker, himself a veteran, and endorsed by Prince Harry.
Harry recently called for a new UK equivalent of the US Purple Heart for those wounded in action and in 2016 opened the Invictus Games – a veteran’s equivalent of the Olympics – alongside former US President and ‘War on Terror’ leader George W. Bush.
The idea of such an award was attacked as too American by military historian Max Hastings on Friday when he used his Daily Mail column to point out the risks of devaluing medals by handing them out so freely.
“The United States is conspicuous among those nations which distribute gongs to its warriors as freely as ration candy,” he said.