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Young army recruits at higher risk of mental illness

30th October 2013
soldier A report by ForcesWatch claims those joining the army under the age of 18 are far more likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health problems after leaving the forces.

The report looked at over 40 existing studies into mental health problems among armed services personnel, in addition to interviews with veterans. The research also indicated that young recruits from disadvantaged backgrounds were at a greater risk of developing mental health problems. The report found that 8% of Iraq war veterans who signed up without qualifications such as GCSEs had PTSD after their deployment, compared with 4% in the armed forces as a whole.

In addition to a higher risk of PTSD, those recruited under the age of 18 also have a higher risk of alcohol problems, depression, anxiety, violence self-harm and suicide than those who signed up as adults.

ForcesWatch highlighted that Britain is one of only 19 countries to recruit 16-year-olds into the army.

An MoD spokesperson said: "It is nonsense to claim that the armed forces recruiting specialists receive any form of commission for each recruit. All armed forces marketing material contains realistic firsthand accounts of experiences of operations, which is precisely what our potential recruits want to see and hear.

"During the recruitment process our potential recruits are well informed and constantly reminded about the risks linked to serving in the armed forces.

"This report completely ignores the benefits and opportunities that a military career offers young people. It provides them challenging and constructive education, training and employment, equipping them with valuable and transferable skills for life.

"It is also important to put these figures in context as independent research shows the rates of PTSD are similar to rates in the civilian population and the rates of suicide are actually lower.

"However, we take this issue extremely seriously which is precisely why this government has committed £7.4m to improving services and why we are working to reduce the stigma of mental illness through a number of initiatives and campaigns."

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