HORRIFIC memories of the conflict in Northern Ireland account for almost two-thirds of PTSD cases among Scottish veterans, a charity has revealed.
Combat Stress says 60% of the former soldiers it helps deal with post traumatic stress disorder were scarred by their experiences of Northern Ireland – rather than Iraq or Afghanistan.
The charity says many of the 500 veterans still struggling to cope with memories of Northern Ireland were shocked by the savagery of a conflict so close to home.
Combat Stress, which is based near Ayr and currently helping 830 former and current troops, is even counselling elderly veterans of the Aden conflict in the 1960s.
The 38-year deployment of British soldiers in Northern Ireland, Operation Banner, ended in 2007.
Robert Lappin, a regional welfare officer for Combat Stress in the west of Scotland, said: “Most people I go and see is to do with Northern Ireland.
“Northern Ireland was a troubling experience for most of us but for those who served in the 70s and 80s it was particularly violent.
“For many of them it happened in a formative period in their lives. I think a lot of guys are still frightened about their faces being recognised.
“I know guys that, even though they went on with the army and served in multiple conflicts like the Gulf, Northern Ireland is still seen as the main one.
“It’s people that speak like them and look like them. When they come home they’re thinking ‘are they planning the next attack?'”
Mr Lappin, a former Major in the Royal Engineers, added that many of the veterans are struggling with drink as they battle their demons.
“Some people have to hit rock bottom a few times before they come and ask for help.
“I have seen people bounce round rock bottom for decades abusing alcohol, becoming estranged from family and friends. Most people are unemployed.”
As British forces continue withdrawing from the front lines in Afghanistan, Combat Stress, which dates back to 1919, is busier than at any point in the last decade.
The charity now offers a six week residential course at its centre in Hollybush House, Ayrshire, where veterans of conflicts and others suffering PTSD take part in group sessions
Mr Lappin, a former major in the Royal Engineers said: “We’ve had veterans of all conflicts, from Aden up to the present day and and people who worked in disaster relief.”
Around 100 people have now gone through the course and Mr Lappin said the results were “very good.”
He urged former servicement to approach the charity if they felt the needed help as it’s “never too late” to deal with their problems.
Brigadier Allan Alstead, a former commanding officer of the King’s Own Scottish Borderers, who served in Northern Ireland, praised the work the charity was doing.
The regiment lost two soldiers in the 1989 Derryard raid in County Fermanagh, which saw the IRA attack a British checkpoint with machine guns and a flamethrower.
He said: “Many men would be unable to lead a positive life if it was not for the help that they receive from Combat Stress.”