THOUSANDS of troops have been declared unfit for combat duties because of mental health problems, official figures reveal.
A former Army chief has warned “all is not well” in the armed forces in the wake of heavy defence cuts.
General Sir Richard Dannatt described the problem as “very concerning” and said it strengthened the case for extra resources to be pumped in.
New stats reveal that 3,500 service men and women have been medically downgraded after being diagnosed with mental health issues.
In total, 35,000 troops are downgraded, which bars them from being deployed on operations and limited in the role they can perform on overseas exercises.
But the large proportion with mental health problems is a growing concern.
Figures obtained under freedom of information laws show one in every 50 serving military has now been medically downgraded for psychiatric reasons.
I am not convinced that enough is being spent on personnel matters such as good housing
Lord Dannatt, head of the Army from 2006 to 2009, said: “I am very concerned by the rise in the number of Armed Forces personnel suffering from mental health issues.
“Although this may in part reflect a greater understanding of mental health and a greater willingness by individuals to come forward for help, nevertheless the numbers indicate that all is not well in Defence.
“Although there is no major campaign being conducted at present, all three Services are widely committed on operations, overseas deployments and training putting pressure on individuals and their families.
“I am not convinced that enough is being spent on personnel matters such as good housing, barrack maintenance, allowances to mitigate some of the difficult circumstances of service life and general welfare.
ABILITY TO PERFORM DUTIES
I fear that the tightness of the MoD budget is now beginning to have a major negative effect on Service people. Add to this the pressure on the unaffordable equipment programme and the case is strengthening for a significant increase in the Defence budget.”
MoD figures show the number of personnel with mental health disorders rose from 3,557 in 2007-8 to 4,886 last year.
Personnel with physical or mental medical conditions or fitness levels that affect their ability to perform duties are assessed in their unit or referred to a medical board.
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In some instances they are downgraded to allow for treatment and rehabilitation, while in others the downgrading is likely to be permanent.
An MOD spokesman said: “We take the mental wellbeing of our service personnel extremely seriously, and urge anyone struggling to come forward and access the care they deserve.
“Personnel may be medically downgraded to allow for treatment and rehabilitation.”
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