SAS ‘must be given counselling for stress trauma’

SAS soldiers should be forced to undergo counselling to avoid the onset of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) later in life, the widow of a veteran said.

Martin Pratt, who served with the elite regiment during the 1970s and 80s, developed severe nightmares and flashbacks following the death of his mother, 30 years after he saw active service in Northern Ireland.

The grandfather’s life spiralled into depression and alcoholism before he died in August aged 59.

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His widow Suzan believes his training with the SAS meant it was impossible for psychotherapists to help him. She said the “tough” culture and image of SAS soldiers meant that mental health problems were a taboo, but given they were often placed in violent and traumatic situations the need for help was probably greater than anywhere else in the Armed Forces.

Mrs Pratt said she also believed that civilian doctors did not understand enough about PTSD and the current system, which meant that Mr Pratt could not receive mental health treatment while he was drinking, had failed her husband.

Mrs Pratt, from near Grantham, Lincolnshire, said: “When we were trying to get help for Martin, I met a doctor who had served in the SAS and he said to me that it takes a special kind of person to even want to apply to get in; only a small percentage are successful in the selection process and then they receive training.

“By that point it’s very difficult to get through to them.

“Counselling is not the thing for them to do as it’s not part of their image.

“Their culture is not to be seen to be weak and that’s why counselling should be compulsory so they all have to go through it.

“Anyone who shows any kind of mental difficulty is immediately returned to their unit so they don’t want to admit it.”

The Yorkshire Post revealed as part of its Christmas Campaign in aid of ABF -The Soldiers’ Charity, that military chiefs are warning of a mental health timebomb in the wake of the 10-year conflict in Afghanistan, with British Army reservists, of which the region supplies nearly a fifth of the entire force, significantly more at risk.