Survivors of war are often left with mental as well as physical scars, whether they are soldiers or civilians.
The BBC News website is exploring what happens when the fighting stops - but the trauma continues. Our five-part series assesses the effects of the Iraq war on those affected by it, and what is being done to help them.
We would like to hear from people who were involved in combat in Iraq and their families.
This debate is now closed. Thankyou for your comments.
The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:
It is unfortunate that many soldiers suffer long term effects of psychological trauma from combat, but a soldier's job is to follow orders and do or die if need be. It's all requirements to the service, our fighting men and women know this when they sign up, and as such they should expect to one day be in harms way. As so many soldiers always say when interviewed on TV, they are "just doing their job'. Let us not forget that a soldiers 'job' is to perhaps be harmed or die, if so required.
David Peters, Kenilworth, UK
To all the "it's your own fault for joining up" brigade. I notice you all wish to remain anonymous. You do not even have the courage to sign your names to your ignorant ranting. How dare you decry our veterans, who put themselves in harms way for you and come back with physical and mental scars that may never heal.
Andy Hazard, Nottingham, UK
My experience with the war was mentally troublesome for me and my family. On the morning of the 7th of April 2003, the Republican Guards began shelling us with heavy artillery, it continued for two hours, being civilian veterans of Basra from the previous Iraq-Iran war we understood what that meant, these two hours seemed like a lifetime. Me and my family, including my two infant daughters, hugged together for the next three days! We did not move for three days so we did not know that the government fled. Our house, car were badly damaged and an unfortunate neighbour's corpse and limbs where scattered up to the house roof. Two weeks ago, sitting in a cinema in Amman, Jordan and watching The War of the Worlds I just couldn't stop crying. My daughters still get nightmares of the artillery shelling whenever they hear a loud bang or if anything falls to the ground.
Haider, Baghdad, Iraq
My brother has just gone out to Iraq for 4 months. He has got a wife and three children. It is upsetting and disturbing to see what is happening out there and families with relatives out there see more than most. A lot of the population think that the 'war' has died down but it hasn't really. People are still getting injured and dying but because it is not covered by the media as much as it was people think that it isn't bad or it is over. I think these men and women who go out to war are very brave and all deserve the respect and hospitality of this country. My brother came to visit me before he went to Iraq and he told me he was scared. Soldiers have feelings too, they are after all human.
Michelle Foster, West Yorkshire, UK
Hi. My fiance is serving in Iraq for a year. I just know that no matter how bad it gets, I will be here for him every step of the way. I think people really need to have patients and understanding with our soldiers when they come back. What they need is to be supported and loved by those close to them.
I served in the first Gulf War. I left the army in 1992 and tried to live a normal life, I was a different person, moody violent, hyper alert etc, did start to drink too much. I had a complete breakdown in 1996. I lost my business, my marriage and many friends. I was eventually treated using EMDR which did the trick. I am now remarried, am employed as a manager, am a school governor, am in the cadet force and volunteer at the Calvert trust. My life is back together, so to all those suffering now, it does take time and hard work, but you can get better, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Will, Garsatng, Lancs
As somebody who had never served in any of the armed services I am obviously in no position to make comments regarding PTSD. However I have just finished reading 'Jarhead', which deals with this very issue. I can only say that when you read somebody's very personal account of war and at it entails it makes you realise just how difficult it must be for anybody who has served to re-enter civilian life and not in some way be affected by what they see.
Phil Court, Kent, UK
I was enlisted after being out of the Army four years, I had no say in whether I went. The UK government said go and I had no legal basis to say no. My son who was six, was hit hardest of all. Try explaining to a child why his father has been taken away. Conflict has so many unseen victims, home and abroad.
I served during the first Gulf War, did two tours of Bosnia and finished my army career in Kosovo. I find it very hard to talk to my wife who I'd met since leaving the services as when in conversation about my time in the army she has little or no points of reference. Describing what the smell of human corpses is like, trying to convey how cold it gets in a Bosnian winter that you see a friends eyes freeze shut. Trying to explain just how scared it is possible to be is so hard a task that I now no longer try to talk about my time in the forces. I've been a civilian for five years now and still dream of being in those places almost every night.
Anon, Preston, UK
I live with a PTSD sufferer and have seen first hand the difficulty he has faced first to get his condition recognised by the MoD and second to get the appropriate treatment. Three years on we are still waiting for CBT on the NHS. Fortunately we have support from Combat Stress. It saddens me to see the links from the BBC website/newspage are all US links, as the UK government offers so little support to those who served.
A Davis, Aylesbury, Bucks
I went to Kosovo in 1999 with the Canadian Army (under British Command). For six months I lived under a heightened state of readiness. I saw images I'd sooner forget and can't forget. Many of my friends who were there have turned to drugs and alcohol to assist them in dealing with the experience. The military tells you to suck it up and get on with it. Not how to deal with it. Any soldier seeking help was considered weak or crazy. Within 24 hours I went from patrolling a shot up country to buying Christmas gifts back home. No one except my family and friends knew we were in Kosovo. Tom
Tom, Edmonton, Canada
My Grandfather had served in the Navy in WWII and had experienced combat in the Pacific against the Japanese. Most notably, he had seen his best friend get his head blown off while he was right next to him. I know that as a child, when I visited my grandparents, I would often hear my grandfather having nightmares that stemmed from his time in the Navy, even 30 to 40 years after the fact. I now have a nephew serving in Iraq in Mosul. He has already relayed some stories to me which I can't help but feel will come back to haunt him. However, with the obvious opposition to this war world wide, and even here in the US, I just believe that these soldiers will take an unfair beating from the media and our citizens when it's really our corrupt government that is to blame.
Leo J. Bronzay, Rochester, NY, USA
My father is a Vietnam vet. He served as a Green Beret in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. His PTSD has cut him off from his peers and family and the symptoms just get worse with age. His Vietnam is our Vietnam. The vet councillor he's had for years used to think she could help her patients get better but now she has realized it's just about helping them survive. There is no fixing a mind and spirit that has been traumatised on such deep psychic levels. She has also found that it gets worse with age instead of better. War is simply a counter productive waste.
Adrina Miller, LA, California
The long term effects of combat and war front fatigue don't seem to have a cure, they come and go and flare in night dreams and during certain situations at home for decades. The treatment of drugs and therapies often does not work well at all with many persons.
James Adams, ABQ, USA
I live with someone suffering from PTSD (Northern Ireland and Desert Storm) and have found support can be variable. NHS psychiatrists often don't understand the "squaddie mentality" of just getting on and not complaining or talking, and then look horrified when the memories do come flooding out. War isn't something soldiers can often make sense of so how can those with no experience understand? The support we receive from Combat Stress (as patient and carer) has been invaluable, it's sad that such a valuable resource has to rely on donations and has no government funding.
A Davis, Aylesbury, Bucks
My veteran husband was a Vietnam combat infantry mortar man. In the last 10 years, he's begun to seek treatment and help from the Veteran's Administration due to injuries that, as he gets older, preclude his usual work. We've had some financial help setting up an alternative business, but he can not plan long term for the family future. It's not possible to discuss plans for home or work with him. It's like he's frozen in time and cannot conceive of the day after tomorrow. To date, even with a diagnosis of PTSD, we are unable to get counselling for marriage, work, or family issues. What works for us so far is resignation and a lack of intimacy. It's hard economic times. Maybe this is the best we can hope for. He's a good man. It's sad to think that others with less family support would feel like. Sad for their families too.
Sharon Scarborough, Waldport, USA
I am a British soldier and a veteran of Iraq (2003). I, as do most of my colleagues, have my own, very personal way of dealing with my memories - is the soldiers' personal support group (families and friends). I believe there should be an attempt to educate and inform the families affected of a soldier's requirement for time to adjust back to his original environment, for patience and understanding, and of the fact that there is much they cannot comprehend, nor should they. This can be achieved by structuring an education programme aimed at families and friends highlighting signs and manifestations of PTSD they are likely to observe and suggestions on how best to deal with their own family problem.
Anonymous, Colchester, UK
I served in the USMC during the initial phase of Operation Iraqi Freedom. I saw many terrible things that keep me up a lot of nights. The only thing I've found that helps me is my faith. I am a very Christian man, and when I feel those old feelings come up again, I pray and ask for strength to face them, rather than hide from them. And that is the only thing that helps me.
David Everett, Hemingway, SC, USA
I know that when I returned from Northern Ireland, I was noticeably (to others) more alert. I couldn't be in a room at night if the curtains weren't drawn, didn't like having my back to the room in public (restaurants, etc), and found 'normal' life slightly unreal at first. Certainly the best thing is to still be around other soldiers, or to be able to talk to them. No offence, but if you haven't served, you aren't seen as being able to really understand. I recommend 'The Scars of War' by Falklands' veteran Hugh McManners for further reading on this subject.
I am a Vietnam Vet. I am retired from the U.S. Army and I was a Ranger trained Infantryman. There is no greater stress than war. It is even more stressful when one takes part in an unpopular war. Like Mr Hannon said there were no counsellors to talk with when it was all over, but talking to others who had similar experiences can be just as beneficial. There have been mental and physical casualties in every war, it is just more openly spoken of these days. The dreams do go away, so pick yourself up and get on with the rest of your life.
Paul Johnson, Spokane Valley, Washington State, USA
The nightmare of having a loved one in combat and not knowing how he or she is doing for weeks on end is truly one of the most difficult psychological challenges we face. We place our faith and trust in the Almighty and listen for the phone.
Richard Skelton, Windham USA
It angers me to see all the ignoramuses talking about a generation going soft. I'm now 50 years old and served as a police officer for 25 years - I served as well with the UN in Croatia in 1993 - and five years ago went down with PTSD. I still suffers from nightmares and anger, avoiding crowds and loud noises. This syndrome attacks also people that are not fragile - it's a normal reaction to abnormal situations -you can recover if your symptoms aren't permanent and therapy is offered within months. However, if your symptoms are severe you'll never get rid of it and you will be dependent on a loving family and a good social health system.
Niels Mosbak, Daugaard, Denmark
As a marine combat veteran of the Vietnam War, I can attest that anyone involved in combat will suffer mental distress after leaving the war zone (some will suffer it while in the zone). Although I was extremely moody and combative for several years after coming home and having recurring bad dreams, I was able to overcome the experiences, and have, thanks to my wife of 37 years, led a "normal" and productive life. Suffering Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (more properly called "Battle Fatigue"), has nothing to do with whether one feels the war they were in was justified or not (I happen to be one of the few who feels that my service in Viet-Nam was right). It has everything to do with being in a extremely stressful situation where your life, and the lives of your buddies, are on the line 24 hours a day, seven days a week, along with seeing those buddies killed or severely wounded.
David Zimlin, Dunedin, Florida, USA
My father served in the royal marines in the Falklands/Malvinas war and Northern Ireland and three out of the 10 comrades he maintains contact with have committed suicide. To my utter shock of these events I researched further into Falklands War casualties and after effects and more soldiers committed suicide after the war than during the actual conflict. My father is a broken man now, and the services provide little support for veterans.
Dafydd Efans, Powys, Wales
I went ashore at Umm Qasr in 2003 at the start of the conflict. I was 11 months out of university. Yes, people are bound to be traumatised, war is a terrible thing. But to be honest it is possible to deal with the conditions you were under, it is possible to carry on. I think a factor of this PTSD is the fact that individuals who are mentally fragile are being sent to do jobs they should not be doing. War is hard, as well as brutal but to be honest so are we.
From when I was 17 I was a soldier. I was in the British Army for seven years, serving in Saudi Arabia, Borneo, Cyprus and 2 tours Of Northern Ireland. After the Army I was in the Middle East and Israel for four years and was in the Golan Heights during the Yom Kippur war. On return to the UK I joined the London Fire Brigade and served for 27 years until I retired two years ago. I can confidently say that I have been in one or two life threatening situations and on two occasions suffered life threatening injuries from which I recovered. The result was I was more careful afterwards in what I did. PTSD does exist and I do not doubt that I have shown some of the symptoms described. But I overcome that by being positively realistic about events and by accepting that I volunteered to go through those experiences, mainly due to a sense of duty and responsibility. Plus I loved the buzz I got from the danger.
Michael Morgan, Bedford, UK
I spent seven months in Baghdad in 2004, in the Green Zone, under regular rocket and mortar fire, and with colleagues being killed. I became proficient at throwing myself onto the office floor when my building was hit and the temptation to do this in response to loud bangs continued after I got home. After a few months the 'need' disappeared, but I recognise how easily someone could be influenced adversely by such experiences. We must recognise the impact of war on those who experience it and treat them with great care. Those who have never been exposed to such events should not judge those who have. War is terrible and is beyond the understanding and experience of most people. Long may it remain so.
Derek Bird, Milton Keynes, UK
There is no draft anymore. People in the US military join the Army willingly. They are convinced they are defending something someone else told them. They are nothing more than brainwashed slaves used for the Governments own interests. It is their own fault for joining the Army, they had a choice. What about the countries the US decides to invade? what choice do these people have? American soldiers today are not heroes.
In my opinion the person who dies in a war suffers less than a person who survives. I am from Indian Kashmir which has been in turbulence for more than a decade now. I was in Kashmir during the peak years of disturbance. Even though my memories have faded now, I still get nightmares of crossfirings and crackdowns. When I hear on news that there was a bomb blast in any part of Kashmir, I go berserk with fear and grief. Even though I left Kashmir five years ago, I still get depressed sometimes when I remember those dead bodies which I have seen back at home. In my opinion, the memories of these horrible incidents are deep-rooted and most probably I will never forget them.
Khursheed Ahmad, Boston, Mass, USA
To Mannish - PTSD has zero to do with the reasons for war. It's a normal human response to abnormal circumstances. In a critical incident stress debriefing [CISD] the facilitator uses proven techniques to assist the person work and talk his or her way through the trauma so that it no longer has the power to control his/her actions and responses any longer. The best treatment for PTSD is preventive action in the theatre of conflict/trauma. A worse choice is to wait for symptoms to appear then treat it. In Gulf War I, in which I served, we used combat stress centres to keep PTSD from becoming an issue for the troops. It works! CISD techniques should be mandatory for all who have been witnesses to the death and destruction of combat.
Helen Spalding, McAllen TX, US
I worked in Baghdad for nine months on a international development funded project. The first thing I would like to say is that talking about the post traumatic stress of returning soldiers does not need to detract from the trauma experienced by the Iraqi people. Secondly, while all soldiers have consented to be sent to war this does not mean we should expect them to be unaffected or not give the affects they experience the attention it deserves. I am concerned that the British military does not train its soldiers enough to deal with death, grief and fear and the horrors that they will encounter. I am also not sure if any human is able to come out unscathed after months of killing, causing, witnessing, avoiding and cleaning up death.
Emily Reilly, London, UK
I find it amusing that most people discount PSTD. Take one of these individuals and place them on the rifle line for a week and most would turn to jelly. After a shoot out with the enemy I would put my arms around myself to see if I was still alive and at times I would be walking down a hallway and hear a dead buddy call my name and I would turn around and there would be no one there. I served in Vietnam in 1969 and now I see the same thing happening to the veterans of Iraq. Psychological injuries are very hard to treat and require the very best of physicians. I was very lucky - when I returned from Vietnam I went to work for an aircraft company with a million-dollar mental health care policy on every employee. It paid for me to go to psychotherapy twice a week (they let me off of work to do so) for 15 years and I made a recovery. The VA did nothing! Psychotherapy and the advent of Prozac saved my life. It seems like each generation forgets the cost of war.
Frank, Tucson, Arizona USA
To those who say that this generation has gone soft - nonsense! PTSD has always existed in human history, but the disorder has not been diagnosed until modern times. Veterans from WW1 to the present war will suffer from some form of PTSD, it's just that some people are more affected by it than others.
Jisang, New York City, US
In some ways it is reassuring to hear that so many soldiers have been affected by the awful things they have seen and participated in. Perhaps if this horror and its after effects were more widely acknowledged, fewer people would choose to take part in pointless, destructive wars. The military has a great deal invested in the image of professional soldiers 'just doing their jobs', trained to cope with all they experience.
My cousin returned from Iraq about a year ago. Although his army buddies were like family to him, he never discussed his experience of the war, not to his girlfriend, not to his mother or friends. Instead, he numbed any feelings of anxiety or depression by living his life on the edge. He ultimately passed away about three months ago from an obvious death-mission at the young age of 23. Casualties of war are never limited to the soldiers' homecoming or with the end of the war.
A Chen, Los Angeles, CA
One of my earliest memories after my dad was discharged was when a car backfired and he jumped over the hedge for cover. He has now been out of the forces for 25 years but like most of his command suffered from PTSD. Like him we just had to learn to live with the violence and mood swings. I'm still terrified of his temper as the violence is terrible. I still freeze whenever I hear "there's report of a bomb" or reports are coming in of an explosion concerning British troops. I still have to remind myself neither he nor my uncles are in the firing line anymore but it doesn't stop the dread. It's about time the public and governments recognised that forces and their families all suffer from PTSD.
I think PTSD has a lot to do with the 'purpose' of the war associated with what a soldier does or has seen. If a soldier was fighting to defend his country from foreign invasion, the soldier would be 'truly patriotic' and mentally strong in his resolve to defend his nation to let any stress get to him. In my opinion PTSD is a symptom a soldier suffers from the shallow patriotic war cries politicians give to their soldiers to go kill for an unjust war.
Manish, Sacramento, USA
My cousin served a tour of duty in Iraq. He came home, finished college, bought a house, and was planning his wedding when his company was called back to active duty in Djibouti. Several of his fellow marines have stated that they will commit suicide if they are deployed back to Iraq. It pains me to think about what these men and women went through in combat and about what Iraqi citizens must go through every day. To choose suicide over redeployment to Iraq - the psychological trauma of this war must be unbearable.
Christy, Orlando, FL, USA
Thank you to everybody for sharing your experiences on this. My Dad was a prisoner during WW II, and he seems like such a grouchy, hostile and easily angered person. He isn't really in contact with his brothers and sisters anymore, but his wife and children still had to put up with him since we had no choice. I know his personality is not his fault, although I doubt I can ever completely forgive him for how mean he was to my mother and to me when I was growing up. It's so sad.
Tom Woodward, Winnipeg, Canada
When you join the army you are no longer an individual or a human being, you become a weapon, part of a bigger weapon. The training teaches you to kill and survive in place of compassion and mercy. When you enter combat and engage "the enemy", you cross the line between civilian and military forever. The only people to find peace in war are those that do not survive it. To all those who pretend that they are "supporting our boys": what kind of support is sending your children to kill and be killed?
I volunteered in 2003 to go to Iraq and help with the post-war reconstruction effort. For me, the look of horror on the face of the Iraqi child in the photo only reinforces my conviction that we must not leave Iraq before our work is done. Iraqis have suffered for too long under the Baathists and now these same Baathists and their foreign surrogates are terrorising Iraqis in the name of nationalism and resistance to foreign occupation. My message to the world is to please remember that we are fighting a very vicious and merciless enemy who thinks nothing of murdering thousands of civilians simply to make a point that they control the initiative in Iraq. We must not let them win and we must not let the Iraqi people down.
Fawaz Saraf, USA (Iraqi-American)
Soldiers are also victims in these situations. They have been made feel that invading a country and killing innocent people and parents of young children in somehow a good idea. The consequences of war are obvious, its not the first war to have happened and I doubt that previous mental scars have healed. It's a sad story every time when we hear about those killed in Iraq or anywhere else, and for what? Those left behind with bitter or sad memories need help and support to deal with actions that were imposed on them and the consequences of war.
Muhtaseb, London, UK
Personally, I think if you don't take all considerations in to place before you join the army or while you are training then it's the individual's problem. Obviously if the MOD made soldiers more aware of the psychological problems that occur after a war that maybe be more beneficial for the soldiers in the long run. Soldiers are built up for using weapons, specialised equipment and creating strategic plans, not to see close friends blown up.
Michael Hoare, Wallingford, Oxfordshire
Although Mr Voges' comments seem harsh, perhaps we as a society have become soft. Should we be going through therapy because of the trauma of being bullied at school, or because of an abusive relationship? I have and ,yes, it helped. However the nausea and dread that we all felt on that awful day of 7th July is an almost daily occurrence for some in Iraq. Should this not put our problems in perspective?
Zoe, London, UK
War is bad for one and all. While most of your letters have raised the issue of trauma to the soldiers. I would like the readers to enlarge the picture you have of the little girl crying and her brother standing still by the wall. Look into their eyes and you will have the answer.
Khalid Haque, Weybridge, Surrey
Much respect to all veterans returning from Iraq and all past wars. Major thought must be put towards how we are going to help you deal with coming back to reality. In addition, we must figure out how we are going to help those who don't have the opportunity to leave and must come to grips with living in a country that has been destroyed. Most importantly, though, people need to understand that generations of Iraqis have been scarred by seeing family members killed and that the war will not end anytime soon.
Juan Mayorga, Boulder, CO, US
I've been reading all the comments from the soldiers who have seen combat, and while I absolutely feel for them, I can't but help feeling that everyone's ignoring the terrible trauma that the Iraqi children have gone through - years of war with Iran, followed by 12 years of crippling sanctions that the UN should be heartily ashamed of, and then the American invasion. They are living in a hell day in day out, but most of them are too young or weak to cry out. Will anyone offer them PTSD counselling? I think not.
Rasha, Cairo, Egypt
Rates of PTSD seem to vary from war to war. Vietnam had a high rate compared to WW2 or Korea, both of which were very bloody. One issue -raised by Vietnam vets - is that when the media are waging a campaign against the war, this robs the returning vets of a sense of legitimacy. If you present a war as being criminal then you present the soldiers as criminals, not heroes. Something for the BBC to think about as soldiers from Iraq report high levels of PTSD following (relatively) low levels of conflict.
When one US soldier is wounded, the whole media in America goes nuts. Yet they fail to even mention the death toll among Iraqis as if they are not even human beings. The reality is that it is an unjust war of aggression by the US on Iraq. Hundreds of thousands have died and frankly nobody in America cares about the mental effects of it on the survivors and those that are injured for life. Any time Iraq is discussed in the American news and the so-called conservative radio talk shows is to bash Iraqis and Muslims. Even sadder is the fact that all these are friends of Bush.
Shah, Los Angeles USA
I am 21 in the military. Many of my friends have gone and not come back from Iraq. My family was upset when I got the news to go but they were also pound and grateful that I had chosen to volunteer to go. And that's the thing - volunteer is the key word in that we all volunteer to serve our country. No one is being drafted or flat out being told to join the military. So I don't understand why some other military members thinks it's awful that they have to go to the war. Think of the people in WWI, WWII, and Vietnam - they had no choice. The people serving now had a choice whether or not t0 sign that dotted line that said protect and serve my country. I did at 17, after 9/11, knowing that we would be going to war but it was my choice.
JK, IL, US
As a Iraqi-British physician, the issue of mental health in Iraq has always interested me. I think Iraqi civilians are who we should be most concerned about because many don't have the access to counselling and mental health staff that the troops do. Also, they often don't have the option of leaving things behind, because they happen to live in a battle-zone which is one of the strangest and unconventional in history. All this after years of fear, torture and repression from Saddam's Baath regime, which would have been detrimental to their mental health even without the current situation. I think Iraqis are quite strong mentally and tend to use a lot of humour to combat difficult situations. However, when you have children seeing their parents shot in front of them or a huge suicide attack with body parts strewn all over the place, any normal human being would become psychologically disturbed. They need the expert help and resources to be provided sooner rather than later.
Dr H Al-Najjar, Sheffield, UK
I joined the Army at 16 as a Junior Leader, and later went to Sandhurst before serving in Borneo, Aden and Cyprus. On resigning at 25, I went into business and have worked in Africa, Asia and Latin America where I now live. I've seen civil wars, famine, hurricanes, earthquakes etc. Mr Voges makes a valid point, the UK has gone as soft as US. In part it's a legacy of a blame culture that has undermined personal responsibility. PTSD does exist, but its present extent is a far cry from those whose suffering arose from years in the trenches of WWI. To those who are affected today, I recommend - accept that you have changed, we are all to an extent, products of our environment, and you've had different ones to others, so take the positive from yours, do not expect others to understand what they do not know, take responsibility for yourself, today is the first day of the rest of your life, and so it will be tomorrow.
, UK expat
Soldiers are nothing more than tools for which to accomplish an objective set forth by our leaders. How do we expect a person to behave or feel when his/her identity is traded for that of a tool? In order to become a tool, every piece of your being must change. The problem is that we ask men and women to become tools for a nation and for purposes unclear. We must adjust the function of armies in conflict with other cultures to be more in tune with our function as human beings and not solely to hold weapons or drive tanks. Then we will not return from conflict with greater humanity, not less.
Aaron, Cleveland, USA
I went to the to the first Gulf war, came home/left army some 13 years ago now. I still remember and am certain things still affect me though thankfully not in any way as harshly as some described here. Soldiers are human and not many humans have to deal with inhuman circumstances daily - If you're not affected - great thank God and count your blessings. If you are affected, that's OK, it's natural, it's just a way of your mind working this inhuman stuff out. Get help from an expert either through a doctor or through the charities. You have served your country, now let your country serve you. You deserve the same peace you've helped to provide for our country.
Pete, London, UK
War has its consequence. No soldier comes back home feeling good after killing someone. What shocks me is the US government did nothing for the Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans and so many are homeless now. Maybe we will have no more new wars because less and less of our youth are signing up for the military.
Ratna Sengupta, MD, USA
I disagree with M Voges... the many comments on this page clearly show soldiers from all generations may be affected by their experiences, regardless of the location and duration of that war and the roles soldiers were involved in. It is naive to claim the effects of PTSD are just felt by "this generation [which has] gone soft" - soldiers from all wars have suffered psychological trauma. You are one of the lucky ones who came out OK. Also, there may be more counselling services available in the 21st Century, but not everyone who needs it can access that help - particularly TA and serving regular soldiers (and their families) as comments on this page show. Soldiers know the risks when they sign up but commit to working hard and doing a good job. Yet if they are mentally/ physically injured and need help some find out they really are just a number, a disposable commodity about which the MOD/Govt doesn't care enough.
Laura, Birmingham, UK
Men have been soldiering for 1000's of years, mostly under conditions far more horrendous than those of today, PTSD must have been well hidden for all these centuries. I suspect the problem is that the advanced Western countries have simply lost sight of what real suffering is. It is little wonder therefore, that the only people that have to deal with it, like volunteer armies and emergency workers feel like pariahs when they come home and get no comprehension for what they have been through and are generally derided for even volunteering in the first place. I doubt whether there is that much PTSD in the Israeli army, where the whole of society is directly immersed in their problems.
I'm not sure why people are surprised by PTSD. This has been happening to soldiers for hundreds of years but only now do we live in a society that is beginning to acknowledge it. I have not been involved in a war, I did however spend two years living in a country where I saw lives lost tragically on regular basis. I came home to this country to suffer mild symptoms of PTSD. I don't believe we send our young men off equipped to see what they will see. We owe it to them to make sure they are given the support they deserve when they return.
Kirra, Kingston, Canada
I am always very sceptical about the patriotic 'requirement' to support our troops whenever they go to war, regardless of the justness of the cause. The idea seems even more ludicrous when I read stories of how 'our boys' are abandoned by the authorities when they come back.
Whilst I have every sympathy for soldiers suffering PTSD I would hate for this conflict to be rewritten the way that Vietnam has been rewritten with America as the victim - the true victims of this illegal war are the Iraqi people suffering every single day - they don't get to go home after a tour of duty.
Mark Tidmarsh, Brighton, England
I have a friend working as a contractor in Iraq for over two years now. Via e-mail I have watched his personality change: more angry, more defensive, more violent. It is not only the soldiers who are experiencing the trauma of war, but those civilians who are supporting them as well.
Brian, Schenectady, USA
A lot of this comes down to the mentality of the individual, the training and the society in which we live in. If the individual is mentally strong and the training received is of the highest calibre an individual should pull through.... a lot of it comes down to our society of a 'sue them and see' attitude, we are rapidly becoming a compensation nation. We know what we sign up for.
The same person that left for the Army just three days after graduating high school, is certainly not the same person that returned home after serving in Iraq. My son has completely cut himself from his family. We receive no phone calls, no emails or no visits. When we are fortunate enough to reach him by phone, his conversation is extremely limited. His personality prior to the Iraq War was jovial and upbeat. He would kid around and always make you laugh. Now he only says 'I'm OK'. You can hardly get more than that out of him in any conversation. Please somebody, anybody tell me how to get persuade him to seek help with PTSD?
Laverne Williams, Palm City, FL USA
Given that about 20-25% of Britain's rough sleepers are ex-military, it's clear there's a huge problem; we know that people with PTSD are at high risk for alcohol and other drug abuse. Who are the two groups given the least help in society? The homeless and addicts, who are the victims of the war on drugs and attempts to clean up the streets. In the meantime, generation after generation in war-torn nations are dealing with similar problems to combat veterans, and we sit and wonder why there's so much turmoil in certain areas of the world. What we need is a huge and long-term attempt to help people to become psychologically healthy - imagine the benefits if we did that.
Kaz, Briton in NJ, USA
I'm a 20 year veteran and still serving. It's difficult to serve someplace like Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia etc.. without some sort of effect on you. Some experiences are worse than others. People react differently. But one thing is for sure, once you've served in a war zone, you experience a change, you discover things about yourself and others. This is one reason why I have the utmost respect for all the people whose job is to go to war. I wake up screaming, sometimes I don't remember what the dream was about, other times I do. I don't talk about war with those who've never served, they've no idea and it's better left alone.
MT, Baltimore, USA
I'm a so-called 'child survivor,' born at the end of war in a hide-out in Holland. (Like Anne Frank, except that my parent survived it - though not for very long.) It's all so very familiar, what I read here. I'm still in a talk-group, even now, 60 years on. My heart goes out to these families. If I've learnt from my own experiences and those I talk to every week, I'd say: seek help. Otherwise it may just do you in. There's a downward spiral of intrusive memories, isolation, family conflict, drug/alcohol abuse which lies there like a threat and which faces just about everyone in such a situation. To try to find words for impossible emotions, to try to share these things is terribly difficult and one of the few ways of coping. But do it.
F. van Gelder, Amsterdam, Holland
A Vietnam vet patient of mine told me the image of the boy he killed, the only one he killed during his tour of duty. The boy, according to him, couldn't be more than 14 year old. He was shot in the head. My patient couldn't eat meat for years and often woke up from nightmare in the middle of night. He wasn't sure if the boy was friend or foe. He did not know who his enemy was. If we worry about PSTD, should we also worry about the suffering of the innocents caught up in the war? W
I served for six months in Iraq as a TA on mobilised service. When I came home I had changed in ways I never even noticed, over the following months I became more aggressive, angry, scared and emotionally dead. It ended up costing me my girlfriend and my job, I was diagnosed by my GP as having PTSD, and when I went to the army for help they said it wasn't their problem. Twelve months later and they still have offered me no treatment and even though I am slowly rebuilding my life the army is threatening to discharge me from the TA, so the only true support I get (from people I know) will be taken away. One day I hope the nightmares will stop.
Soldiers of the world wars came home and were in a community of people who had been in similar situations. Modern day soldiers returning from "small" wars can feel very isolated and have very little chance of finding what is and is not the norm after what they have been through. As professional and career soldiers, they feel at significant risk by exposing their "weakness" to the system.
Simon Lansdowne, Swindon, England
I agree the MOD has to take more responsibility for the welfare of those it has placed in hostile environments. You only have to look at the number of homeless ex-servicemen to see that integrating back into society is not necessarily easy for some. However, I do think the current conflict in Iraq has shown some unfortunate aspects of UK government policy. I understand some 90 plus British military personnel have died in Iraq and many hundreds more injured, many severely. However, I have yet to see the Prime Minister or other senior government figures paying publicised visits to the injured in hospital as they recover. I think this lack of respect from those who issue the orders for our military to place themselves in harm's way, is a disgrace.
My service in Vietnam included seeing some gruesome injuries and deaths. When I returned, the American public disliked Vietnam veterans. The word was, most were cuckoo and many at that time indeed returned to commit some terrible crimes. I, of course, denied for many years ever serving there. The unsettling memories, you drove your mind to not think about them. You steeled yourself when they invaded your subconscious to think upon something else. Violent death is a trauma to the psyche. No-one is so tough as to not be affected with the death of a loved one or a comrade crushed or blown apart. If you have a son or father with PSTD symptoms get them help before it's too late. The VA puts out wonderful pamphlets with synopsis on symptoms and treatment. Help him even if he doesn't want it. It's wonderful to return to somewhat normal. You no longer walk that precipice of loss of self control.
Claude Rivera, Alamosa, USA
My grandfather was shelled while serving in the merchant navy during the Second World War and still had horrific, panic-inducing nightmares up to the day he died, so it's hardly surprising that servicemen and women are suffering in Iraq today.
Alastair, Brighton, UK
I am from Iraq, and since I was six years old, I have experienced war. From falling rockets to air raids, to the stress of losing your family members continuously and for reasons you have nothing to do with. Iran, then Kuwait and the 12 years of sanctions. This made most Iraqis fearless of death, because they basically do not have a life for a long time. During that time, you will have to worry about every aspect of living as a civilian, from gas to water to food etc... And this left me and most of my generation in a constant state of worry, trying to plan for everything and seeing only the dark side of life. I think this is the least that can happen after being subjected to such a brutal lifestyle.
After reading all these comments so far, they all reflect the desperate cries of PTSD. It is not a case of whether one conflict is old or new, longer or shorter, the top and bottom of it is that as human beings we are not supposed to kill each other and any normal sane person acknowledges this. PTSD is a sign that you are a person with compassion and is a safe way of your psyche telling you that what you did, or saw, was wrong and unnatural. To not have feelings when seeing a person blown to pieces or having to pull the trigger on someone and think everything is okay is the sure sign you might be an insane maniac. Not everyone does get affected by PTSD in one way or another, but most combatants, relief aid workers, and medics do in one way or another whether it be long or short term.
Rachel, Stockholm, Sweden
I am outraged at Ryan from Appleton, USA comments. Sure, each person is affected differently but I think it depends on the role they played in the war itself. My partner spent six months in Iraq from serving in 3 Para. Six months living in holes in the ground that he had to dig out everyday, listening to artillery shells going off and explosions all around him. Did he kill anybody? Probably. Would he talk about it? No way! I spent weeks being woken by his nightmares and sweating fits. I soothed him when he screamed out and I cuddled him when he cried. He never talked about it, not even now. The MOD offered him counselling as part of his eight-man team - but what man wants to pour their heart out in front of seven other men, even if they are their band of brothers? I called Combat Stress, they couldn't help because he was still a serving soldier. So he pushed it to the back of his mind and carried on. I think the MOD should be doing more for their men on their return to the UK, everybody should be assessed individually and treated as a person in their own right and helped accordingly.
Anonymous, Kent, UK
I'm 70 years and did my time in the service of this country. During the Borneo war I was away for 18 months and my wife was in temporary married quarters with three children under school age. The youngest didn't recognise me, the middle on was a bit hesitant and unsure. We didn't have armies of counsellors to look after either me or the family left behind. We got on with our respective jobs and came out OK on the other side. This generation's gone soft...
M Voges, London
My father served on HMS Glamorgan during The Falklands War. I know not what support, if any, he was offered after the conflict ended. Needless to say the events he witnessed meant that he came back a changed man unable to speak about what had happened to them when their ship got hit. (All he ever said was that identifying his workmates who were killed was the worst thing he ever had to do.) I do think that there should be support for people who fight in wars on behalf of their country. However right or wrong we perceive war to be, our government owes them as much support as can possibly be given.
Gary, London, UK
My father was in the military during the sixties and seventies and we had a couple of overseas postings, so as a kid I experienced the shootings and bombings in Aden and subsequently the military coup and Turkish invasion in Cyprus. If trained soldiers find the trauma of war so hard to deal with, how much more so does a 12-year old kid? Throughout my schooling I suffered intense anger fits while failing to exhibit a range of other emotional responses and I've always found it difficult to fit in with others because my values and beliefs were so different (or seemingly so extreme compared) to theirs. The anger has always been made worse because no-one has ever acknowledged that a service dependent child could suffer from PTSD. When I finally joined up myself and was sent to Northern Ireland it was like finding a home but eventually even the military decided that I was too much of a misfit. There are no veteran's organisations for the children that lived through overseas wars, so where are we supposed to turn?
I would imagine that those living under the terror of Saddam Hussein for 30 years have suffered more trauma and psychological scars then one can imagine.
Todd, Virginia, USA
My brother is in the Black Watch and served two tours in Iraq in the recent Gulf War. Although he has shown us pictures taken by him while he was there he will not talk about what he saw or the things he did. He doesn't sleep well and is often walking around the house in the wee small hours while everyone else is asleep. The British Army has a responsibility for the ongoing care of their soldiers.
L, Dundee, UK
I work with the Northern Ireland Veterans association, an organisation who exist specifically to support the veterans and families of those that served during the conflict in Northern Ireland. Our work is complemented by the staff at Combat Stress and it cannot be stressed enough, how many ex soldiers are out there that require the services. Some may have served in Northern Ireland without having suffered any trauma, however, every person reacts to situations differently and we aim to help those that cannot support themselves without assistance. Northern Ireland is the longest running conflict that the British Army have been engaged in, and a significant number are affected severely.
Steve, St Helens, Merseyside, UK
I served in the Iraq war of 2003 and am now off work with PTSD. I have been off now for 8 weeks and what is being done about it is not right. I feel I have lost everything due to my service as no-one wants to help me. I've no income whatsoever at the moment. I have approached the army and they are not interested.
Anon, Bath, England
My dad is in the British army and was away in Iraq during the invasion. I know it was difficult for him when he first got back, he seemed to have lost most of his 'normal' social skills and would become very moody quickly and ultra irritable. I know he had problems telling us what it was like because he felt there was no way he could explain in ways we could understand or grasp and all we had seen was pictures on the news. He was working long busy hours eating, breathing and sleeping at work so coming back to a quiet house with the family who were getting on with their normal business took a while to get used to again. My Mum found it very difficult, first being alone for the six months then having to put up with him when he got back (that's what it became, dealing with the mood swings and anger fits) so they spent some time apart. It seemed to work as it's all good now and he's back to his pre-Iraq ways.
My brother suffers from PTSD after coming back from Kosovo and I suffered when I was in Bosnia. The MOD did nothing to help him at all, All they did was kick him out of the army. I think the MOD needs to do more to help people with PTSD. My brother wanted to stay in the army. The have kicked out a willing and skilled soldier, which I think is a total waste, especially when they are having recruiting problems!
Richard Smart, Swindon UK
I served in the first Gulf conflict, lost friends and colleagues and came back. Day to day life did not seem to mean anything, I found myself thinking "so what" if a task didn't get done, the urgency had gone. I withdrew and pulled back from friends and family. The only people I wanted to or could talk to were people who had undergone similar experiences. I wanted to talk but couldn't. My marriage broke down eventually and I went back to the Gulf to work again, shutting myself away. Now, 14 years on I still have the nightmares. I still drink myself to sleep and still hold the world at a distance. Remembrance day is a very significant part of my calendar.
Robert, Scotland, UK
My twin brother and I both served in the armed forces (my brother still does). I served on submarines and my brother is in the Royal Artillery. We both saw the first Gulf War and my twin was heavily engaged in the second. I saw a big difference in my brother after the second war, he just did not want to talk about his experiences. His mood was withdrawn and he has recently lost his marriage. The Army has given little comfort to him. My experiences were somewhat different, though the stress of heightened tension for months on end does take its toll. I was close to a nervous collapse after the first Gulf War (which I put down to overwork). It has taken a long time to overcome the feelings of 'dread' and accept the bad dreams. My brother and I have become closer through some frank exchanges, but service does change people significantly. A lot of civilians think ex-service people are slightly 'strange' socially sometimes, but I see it as a coping mechanism for what we have done.
John, Rugby England
To the wives and families of soldiers with PTSD I would say please try to love the whole person regardless of this condition, adjust your life to cope with the symptoms just as if they'd returned to you with an injured body. Wives, please interpret your partner's emotions for your children. Cherish the good moments when the sufferer's guard is down and they are fully involved in the moment. It is very possible to have a successful relationship with a sufferer, (15 years and counting) and the emotional rewards are boundless.
The reason why soldiers have such problems is due to the fact that the occupation they are involved in is unnatural for sentient human beings. We were never designed to kill each other, psychologically or emotionally, so its no surprise that we either can't cope or have to become brainwashed to cope.
Mark Phillips, Wakefield, W Yorks
What about the trauma suffered by the Iraqi people that have done nothing to warrant having their country attacked and destroyed based on lies?
Al, Washington, DC US
TA soldiers are sent as individuals and just have to survive, often finding it difficult to find support from the TA because staff are simply not aware. When we came back in 2003, we were shunted to a side parking bay at the airport so as not to 'offend' the civilians and had to unload our own kit. The rot started there. That night we got drunk and just eye balled everyone. The worst bit is that no one wants to listen and their sad little lives revolve around football & Big Brother.
Jo, London, UK
By learning as much as possible about PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder)- it can help alleviate the confusion felt by both the sufferer and the surrounding carers or family members. I am now doing a dissertation at degree level concerning PTSD as my father suffers from it, and I have found that by talking openly about it and learning about it, it can help. It doesn't help that the government closed the military hospitals as often ex-servicemen/women feel uncomfortable talking to a civilian doctor about their experiences and civilian doctors cannot understand as well as a military doctor who may have served in similar situations and can empathise more.
Lindsey Gulczynski, London, England
Living in a constant state of fear will for sure leave a mark on mental health. I am fortunate that no one from my unit was hurt in any way and I am not sure how I would deal with loss of a fellow soldier (someone I know). Every day we leave out FOB there is a chance that someone may get hurt. But sometimes you just try not to think about such things and hope for the best.
That's not right, my cousin is an army ranger and was there during the first Gulf war and now this. He's fine, it depends on the soldier and how he/she was trained to cope with the mental and physical aspects of war.
Ryan, Appleton, Wisconsin, USA
My experience is of Bosnia and Rwanda, and the struggle we had to get some elements of the UN to introduce counselling for its staff suffering from Critical Incident Stress Disorder and later PTSD. Mik.
Mik Magnusson, Pretoria, South Africa
Even decades after the conflict, my great grandfather would instantly burst into tears as soon as someone would mention the war (WWI). Certainly, WWI was far more intense than Iraq, but not necessarily more traumatising. One thing for sure is that this was something you would just keep to yourself after the war. Veterans of Iraq may end up having to do the same thing when this war ends up turning unpopular.
Alex F, Toulouse, France
I was in the Royal Australian Navy and when I came home from the Gulf it was very difficult as nobody could find the stressor that made me ill plus as no Australians died in the 1990/91 Gulf war those who did not serve in the Gulf, gave people like myself a very hard time and so I was discharged in 1992 but had to fight for pensions as it was said nobody died and so called experts could not find the stressor. There was no debrief in 1991 and still we hear that those returning fro Iraq are not getting debriefs or if they are it is very hit and miss to the point if you say you have a problem then it could leave your job in limbo.
Philip Steele, Mandurah, Western Australia