Combat Stress sees 71% increase in referrals


  • Combat Stress, the UK’s leading mental health charity for veterans, has seen a 71% increase in referrals in five years 
  • The charity has had almost 10,000 new referrals in the last five years, illustrating the urgent and continual need to support veterans experiencing mental health issues such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Combat Stress is currently supporting almost 1,500 Iraq veterans and more than 1,300 veterans of Afghanistan


Combat Stress is the UK’s leading mental health charity for veterans, providing specialist clinical treatment and practical support to ex-servicemen and women across the UK with mental health conditions including PTSD, depression and anxiety

Figures from this year’s annual report, published later this month, show that the charity saw almost 10,000 new referrals in the last five years. This equated to an increase in referrals from 1,443 in 2010/11 to 2,472 in 2015/16 – a rise of 71%. Additionally, since the 2014/15 financial year there has been a 34% increase in the number of Afghanistan veterans being supported by the charity, as well as a 24% increase in the number of Iraq veterans being helped.

The significant increase in referrals demonstrates how vital it is to ensure that veterans have access to specialist clinical services for mental health conditions. There is a well-evidenced time delay of 12 years on average between the end of service and a veteran seeking help for mental health issues. However, veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts are coming to Combat Stress within four and two years respectively of leaving the Armed Forces. With the withdrawal of service personnel from operations in the Middle East, specialist services for veterans will continue to play a vital role in ensuring they get the support they deserve.

Responding to the statistics outlined in the annual report, Sue Freeth, Chief Executive of Combat Stress, said:

“The rise in referrals over the last five years shows that PTSD continues to have an impact on a small but significant number of veterans, and we must ensure they have access to specialist support.

“Over the past five years Combat Stress, the Ministry of Defence and other charities have focused on breaking down the stigma surrounding mental health in the military community. For decades this stigma has prevented veterans from seeking the specialist support they need. 

“Many of the veterans I meet tell me there is low awareness of PTSD and other mental health conditions in the military community. This leaves them feeling isolated and unsure of who to turn to for support. Untreated, PTSD can have a devastating impact on veterans and their families and, in the worst cases, lead to people taking their own lives.

“In total 20% of UK troops who were deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan are predicted to develop a common mental health condition including PTSD, according to the King’s Centre for Military Health Research. PTSD is a serious mental health condition which is expected to affect 4% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.

“Over the last five years nearly 10,000 veterans have sought our help for the first time. After more than a decade of conflict in the Middle East the need for ongoing support has never been clearer.”

Commenting on the issue of PTSD amongst veterans, former British Army Major and MP for Barnsley Central, Dan Jarvis said:

“PTSD is a debilitating condition and no one should seek to downplay the devastating impact it can have on ex-service personnel and their families.

“PTSD remains a serious problem for our veterans. Military charities have done a great deal of work trying to reduce the stigma around mental health and it is very important that we fully support them in that work.”

Combat Stress’ treatment and support services are always free of charge for veterans. We are Care Quality Commission (CQC) registered and the NHS England PTSD specialist treatment provider for veterans. 

For more information please contact Nicola Hudson, PR and Communications Officer, on 01372 587165 / 07711 590259 or at