Wednesday 9 February 2011

A Civilised Society?

I'm up at 5.00 this morning eating my favourite breakfast of fish-fingers, egg and tomato sauce and reading the National Assembly report on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder among armed forces veterans (see this link) in anticipation of an early morning interview on Radio Wales. The story leads the news and my piece goes well though it is easily capped an hour later by arguably the most well-known former Welsh Guardsman Simon Weston who tells it how it is - he's particularly good at explaining how bog-standard counselling isn't going to fix these "mental wounds" but targeted, bespoke talking therapies can work quickly and cost-effectively.

I'm pleased to see that the BBC has picked up on a little-known point I made that Wales is exceptional in providing more than twice the number of recruits to the armed forces compared with England or Scotland - a badge of honour perhaps but also a challenge in terms of taking care of those of them who struggle on their return to civilian life. Shame on the Ministry of Defence for grudging no more than a pittance towards helping struggling veterans.

Hafal has always said that a key measure of a civilised society is how it treats people with a serious mental illness; others have said the same thing about the treatment of veterans. What sort of society is it that has so many veterans with a mental illness suffering homelessness, addiction, imprisonment and early death?

The picture shows Sgt Robert Bye, the first Welsh Guardsman to be awarded the Victoria Cross in 1917: he went on to serve in the 1939-45 war as well.