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British troops suffer higher rates of PTSD: study

British forces who served in Afghanistan and Iraq are suffering increased rates of PTSD [Getty]

Date of publication: 8 October, 2018

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Some 17 percent of ex-military personnel who had combat roles in Iraq or Afghanistan reported symptoms suggesting probable PTSD.

Members of the British armed forces who served in Afghanistan and Iraq are suffering increased rates of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), new research revealed on Monday.

Some 17 percent of ex-military personnel who had combat roles in Iraq or Afghanistan reported symptoms suggesting probable PTSD, compared to six percent of those who were deployed in support roles, such as logistics, the King's College London study said.

"For the first time we have identified that the risk of PTSD for veterans deployed in conflicts was substantially higher than the risk for those still serving," said Dr Sharon Stevelink from King's  Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience (IoPPN).

Professor Nicola Fear, also from the IoPPN, said: "One possible reason PTSD is more common among veterans may be that personnel who are mentally unwell are more likely to leave the armed forces.”

The study, funded by the defence ministry, was carried out by the King's Centre for Military Health Research.

It began in 2003 and this phase included 8,093 participants, 62 percent of whom had been in Iraq, where British troops were deployed 2003-2011 or Afghanistan (2001-2014).

The overall rate of probable PTSD for veterans of the Iraq and Afghan wars was nine percent, compared to five percent of those who did not deploy to those conflicts.

The study also showed rates of probable PTSD among current and former serving military personnel reached six percent in 2014/16, up from four percent in 2004/2006.

The results of a major cohort study, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, showed frontline soldiers were most affected, but so too were those who have since left the military.

Meanwhile the rate of probable PTSD among currently serving personnel was five percent, close to the rate among the general population.

War crimes

In December the International Criminal Court's chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said that there was a "reasonable basis" to believe that some British soldiers committed war crimes after the US-led invasion of Iraq.

The disclosure came in a 74-page report on preliminary inquiries, as the ICC's member states gathered in New York for its annual nine-day meeting to discuss matters relating to the tribunal.

"Following a thorough factual and legal assessment of the information available... there is reasonable basis to believe that members of the UK armed forces committed war crimes, within the jurisdiction of the Court, against persons in their custody," Bensouda said.

The Hague-based prosecutor in 2014 reopened an initial probe into war crimes allegations relating to prisoner abuse, after rights groups and lawyers alleged that at least 1,071 Iraqi detainees were tortured and ill-treated between March 2003 to December 2008.

The same group also alleged that British personnel committed 52 unlawful killings of people in their custody over the same period.

However, a group of lawyers who formed part of the those making the allegations were later found guilty on misconduct charges resulting from a public inquiry. The lawyers' lead counselor was struck off.

Bensouda's office said, however, that individual statements received from those lawyers "could be considered credible enough if substantiated with supporting material" such as detention records, medical certificates and photographs.

Her office is now considering "complementarity and gravity" before evaluating further steps.

Set up in 2002, the Hague-based ICC is an independent court of last resort, only to intervene and prosecute those committing the world's worst crimes if a member country is unwilling or unable to do so themselves.

In 2017, Britain dismissed hundreds of allegations of misconduct by its soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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