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Statement on Afghanistan - August 2021

To all UK veterans and their families who are affected by current events in Afghanistan, we stand with you. You may be asking whether it was worth it. We know many of you feel let down, angry and frustrated. Please try not to forget the positives of your time in Afghanistan. UK servicemen and women helped bring peace and relative stability to Afghanistan for almost 20 years. Girls were able to study and attend school, women were able to take positions of leadership and authority. However, we know it’s hard to consider the positives achieved in the last two decades when there’s so much fear and uncertainty about the future of Afghanistan.

We implore both current and former servicemen and women to talk about their feelings and seek help if necessary. Recent coverage may trigger difficult thoughts and feelings, and could re-traumatise some veterans or worsen conditions like PTSD. Veterans’ families will also be impacted, as they do what they can to support their loved ones who may be effected by trauma, while those who’ve lost loved ones may feel angry or hurt. Emotional reactions are normal. There’s no right or wrong way to feel. However, for some, the situation may be causing intense feelings. If you’re feeling guilt, remorse, shame or anger, or are being self-critical, feeling unworthy, unforgiveable or “damaged”, you’re not alone. This could be a sign you’re experiencing moral injury resulting from things you’ve experienced or witnessed. This can happen when something happens that contradicts your personal, moral and ethical beliefs. Please know help is available.

As a country, it’s vital everyone recognises the impact the situation in Afghanistan could have on veterans across the UK. It’s reassuring to see and hear conversations about veterans’ mental health. We need to support veterans and encourage them to talk about their feelings and seek help if necessary. If you’re a veteran or family member worried about your mental health, please call our free 24-hour Helpline on 0800 138 1619. We’re here for you.

Thank you. All at Combat Stress