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The potential impact of multiple operational tours on veterans' mental health

At Combat Stress, our team of specialist mental health clinicians help former servicemen and women recover from military-related mental health issues, which may be having a significant impact them and their family.

Without our help, veterans can become desperate. Anxiety, anger, depression, alcohol and drug misuse, and sometimes, sadly, suicide – can all tear families apart, destroy relationships and devastate lives.

Over a third of veterans we support have been in multiple conflicts

PTSD and associated mental health problems are a result of how our brains and central nervous system respond to traumatic experiences.

Over a third of veterans who come to us for support (35%) have been involved in two or more military operational tours and are more likely than the general population to have experienced multiple traumatising events. As a result, their mental health problems can be more complicated and require more specialist treatment.

Our expert clinical team help change veterans’ lives for the better, even for those with the most complex mental health problems.

Why more operational tours can make treatment more complex

In the military, people will be asked how many operational tours they’ve done – encouraging them to keep going as it’s considered a type of honour to have been involved in a higher number.

However, the more operational tours, the more likely they’ll experience a potentially traumatising event like threat to life, loss of life, or serious injury – an occupational risk paralleled by few others.

And there can be a cumulative effect to this too.

The cumulative effect of being involved in multiple combat situations

For those who serve on multiple operational tours, the cumulative impact is not only that they are more likely to experience a traumatic event, veterans may also find the longer they’re in a threatening environment, the more being on high alert becomes automatic. 

A necessary survival instinct in threatening environments, but this can become problematic in every day civilian life.  

In addition, they’re also more likely to experience a higher number and type of potentially traumatising events and, with them, a broader range of responses to these traumas, as different traumatic events provoke different responses and methods of coping. 

For example, some veterans may have been on operations where they’ve been exposed to sustained and multiple enemy attacks, where to relax for even a second, could be fatal. 

On another operational tour, the same veteran may not have been under sustained attack, instead being ambushed or hit by an IED when all was otherwise quiet. 

The same veteran may have also witnessed the death or serious injury of innocent civilians, unable to protect or save them, leaving the veteran with powerful feelings of guilt and shame. 

The kinds of events military personnel experience are often unimaginable and varied, leading to complex difficulties that require highly specialised treatment. Our expert clinicians, peer and family support professionals can help. 

How we help

Supporting veterans for over 100 years

With over 100 years of military mental health knowledge, we can help former servicemen and women tackle the past and take on the future.

With our expert team of specialist clinicians, we’re here for even the most complex of mental health difficulties, supporting veterans from every service and conflict.

So, if you’re a veteran, or the loved one of a veteran, please don’t struggle in silence. Call us today on 0800 138 1619 and start your journey to recovery.

If you'd like to make a life-changing difference to more veterans affected by military-related trauma, such as PTSD, please consider making a donation today at  Every gift, no matter the size, can help veterans to leave the battlefield behind and start living again.

Support for veterans and their families