Ukraine war: conflict may trigger ‘unresolved traumatic experiences’ for veterans - where to get support

Help for Heroes offers advice and support for veterans’ struggling with the conflict in Ukraine

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues to have horrific consequences with many civilians killed, cities destroyed after constant bombardments and millions of people being forced to flee their homes.

The constant coverage of the conflict, such as news footage and social media posts, may also have a negative effect on people’s mental health and could be triggering for veterans.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continues to have horrific consequences

Charity Help for Heroes, which supports veterans who are recovering from physical and psychological injuries connected with their service, said it is currently seeing “elevated distress” and a number of referrals associated with the Ukrainian conflict.

NationalWorld spoke to Colin Preece, a Help for Heroes psychological wellbeing manager, to find out how the war may be impacting veterans - and where people can go for help.

How is the Ukraine war affecting some veterans?

Mr Preece said the conflict in Ukraine is distressing for many people, not just veterans, with the moving images on television news reports showing “the devastation on human civilian lives of conflict”.

He added that social media allows for “very personal reporting of the conflict which can evoke a sense of empathy with the victims and an enhanced emotional reaction”.

However, veterans are in a position in which all of the above apply, but are additionally viewing the situation “through the lens of their personal experiences whilst in the military,” Mr Preece said.

He said: “Unresolved traumatic experiences may be triggered negatively impacting on their mental health. They may begin to ruminate over past events as well as the current events”.

What can veterans do if they are triggered by the conflict in Ukraine?

The general advice that the charity gives to veterans and others impacted by the situation is to limit their exposure to the news and social media reporting.

Help for Heroes also encourages veterans to speak to their friends and family about how they feel and to seek professional help, either through their GP or specialist services such as those offered by Hidden Wounds at Help for Heroes.

Hidden Wounds is part of Help for Heroes and comprises psychologists, counsellors, and psychological wellbeing practitioners.

Mr Preece added that self-care is really important and it is “crucial to invest in your own wellbeing”, such as taking time to relax, exercise and go for a walk outside.

He also said trigger warnings are a useful way of advising the audience, for example on news programmes and social media, of upcoming content and allow the viewer “to take steps to limit or prevent exposure”.

Further information regarding the support that Help for Heroes offer is available on their website.

Support is also available from the Samaritans, which you can email, write to or call on 116 123.

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