The cost-of-living crisis has contributed to a decline in veterans’ mental health over the past 12 months, an annual survey by a charity suggests.
Help For Heroes says coverage of the war in Ukraine and loneliness are also to blame for the reported dip in mental health.
Approximately 810 veterans with self-declared physical or mental health problems expected to last longer than 12 months completed the Veterans and Families Survey between Aug. 15 and Sept. 2.
Of these, 85% reported struggling daily with their mental health, compared to 73% in a 2021 survey.
The charity says 82% of respondents are concerned about the cost of living, with one in eight having used a food bank in the past 12 months.
And 51% said coverage of recent conflicts in Ukraine and Afghanistan has taken a toll on their mental health.
This has led many to experience anger, depression, depression and sleep disturbance.
News of these conflicts evoked feelings of guilt or shame in 35% of respondents.
And 10% reported alcohol or substance abuse as a result.
Of those surveyed, 82% reported experiencing feelings of loneliness and 32% said they were often or always lonely.
The latter rises to 54% for those living alone, the charity says.
Lee Patmore, 47, of Crawley, West Sussex, was in the Navy but was medically discharged in 1999 due to a serious back injury.
Mr Patmore, now a wheelchair user, quit his marketing job in October because it was negatively impacting his mental health.
He said: “It costs more to get to work, it costs more to do everything, but work just can’t give you a raise to make it happen.
“It’s very hard, it’s hard to hear that people who have already developed possible mental health problems in one way or another are then further affected.”
RAF veteran Michelle Hopkins, 50, from Wickford in Essex, who suffers from chronic fatigue and post-traumatic stress disorder, has saved hundreds of pounds since taking the charity’s Financial Wellbeing course, it said.
The Flight Operations Officer served in the RAF for 16 years and was deployed to the Falklands, Iraq and Afghanistan.
She said: “Everything is more expensive now that we are in a cost of living crisis and now that I have completed the finance course I feel I have a handle on what comes in and goes out; It’s a good feeling to know I’m in control.”
The charity’s interim director, James Needham, said: “For those veterans living with long-term health problems, it is not surprising that recent external factors beyond their control have led to a deterioration in mental health.”
The number of grant funding referrals has increased by 28% in the last year to September, from 389 to 498 compared to the previous year.
Total referrals increased by 8% through the end of September 2022, from 2,438 to 2,623 compared to the previous year.
A Cabinet Office spokesman said: “We encourage any veteran who is struggling to come forward and seek support.
“Veterans in England can access specialist support through Op Courage, England’s dedicated mental health and welfare service for veterans.”
More information on support is available at: https://www.helpforheroes.org.uk/get-help/welfare/cost-of-living-support/