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“2020health is an important and thoughtful contributor to the health debate”

Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, Chairman, Health Select Committee


Combating Stress Fringe Event CPC 2010

Oct 04. till Oct 04.

Combating Stress – the hidden injury of mental illness

This event was chaired by Dr Jonathan Shapiro, 2020health Consultant Director

October 4, 20102010-10-04T08:00:24 - October 4, 2010 2010-10-04T09:30:00
8:00 AM 2010-10-04T08:00:24 - 9:30 AM 2010-10-04T09:30:00
Hyatt Regency – Sonata Room

Conservative Party Conference 2010

Image Conservative Party Conference 2010


James Forsyth, Political Editor, The Spectator

John Glen MP, Defence Select Committee

Andrew Selous MP, PPS to Iain Duncan Smith MP

Dr Jonathan Shapiro, 2020health Consultant Director

Lt Col Peter Poole MBE, Director Strategy Policy & Performance, Combat Stress


  • High levels of mental illness in the armed forces.
  • Stigma associated with mental illness means a delay in accessing help.
  • Need to raise awareness of resources available.
  • A better mental health service is needed for the population as a whole and getting the services right for the forces should provide a template for the rest of the population.

Many points were made which were relevant to mental illness across the population but the discussion centred around the ‘case study’ of mental illness resulting from time spent in the armed forces. Ex-service personnel are known both for high levels of mental illness, together with a reluctance to seek help. This reluctance may stem from the training received in the services, where self-sufficiency is highly valued.

The first main issue discussed was the stigma associated with mental illness. This stigma means that many of those who had been diagnosed with mental illness are reluctant to admit to the difficulties that they experience. In addition, many who might benefit from help of this kind do not visit a doctor and therefore cannot be treated. In many professions, including in the armed forces there is a fear for ones continued reputation and career if one admits to mental health problems.

Secondly there is the need for more resources to tackle the problem of mental illness, to support both those affected, and their families. In this area we can learn from the work of the Veteran Affairs in the United States. In the UK, Combat Stress have been tackling mental illness in ex-military personnel for over 90 years, working together with the NHS to deliver mental health services in line with best practice and NICE guidelines. However with the increased deployment of troops, an increased incidence of mental health problems is expected.

Peter highlighted the need to raise awareness of the resources available both through the NHS and through organisations such as Combat Stress. On average it takes 14 years for those in need of help to reach Combat Stress. In addition help is often needed for the families of those affected. In the case of a member of the armed forces returning home, the family often have very little understanding of what has gone on. It is not just ex-service men and women who experience mental health problems - a better mental health service is needed for the country as a whole. By initially concentrating on the armed forces, we may be able to begin to improve mental health services across the population.

2020health at CPC 2010 (PDF, 1449 KB)

2020health at CPC 2010

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