15yrs into Afghan War, psychologist warns ‘veterans must not become a business’ (EXCLUSIVE)
In an exclusive interview, chartered psychologist Dr. Amanda-Jane Wood explained some of the achievements and failings of post-war mental health care and her hopes for a radical and holistic new way of dealing with wounded military minds.
Fifteen years since the UK commenced military operations in Afghanistan, there has been an upsurge in concern over mental health issues among veterans and serving personnel.
While exact figures are often heavily contested between charities, academics, medal professionals, and the Ministry of Defence (MoD), there are growing concerns about a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) epidemic.
Wood, whose specialist interests include the provision of care to military families, said that much good work had been done by charities, noting that mental health provisions for those still serving in the armed forces had improved considerably.
She warned, however, that there was a danger of charities and health services seeing veterans as commodities rather than human beings.
Wood recently returned from the Lone Survivor Foundation program in America. Founded by former Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell, the retreat uses a range of cutting edge therapies including yoga and ‘equine’ treatment, wherein horses are used to help veterans recover.
Wood said the US approach was far ahead of the UK’s, which lacks a proper government-funded organization to help those suffering from mental wounds resulting from their service.
She hopes to introduce elements of the US approach in Britain and has plans to start her own initiative called the Charles Wood Foundation – in honor of her uncle who was killed in action in 1941 – in the summer of 2017.
Wood also emphasized that there was a need for mental health practitioners to understand veterans from a cultural perspective – military values, for example – and not to rely on anonymous surveys or other statistical evidence that may skew the figures.
She said it was just as important to ask those in need for “their story” and find out “what they need, what they want from us” in order to treat them effectively.