OPINION: Time to try harder on mental health

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Whatever you think about the act of war, there can be absolutely no doubting the bravery of our soldiers who quite literally put their lives on the line for this country.

One of those soldiers is Rodger Needham, a 48-year-old who served in the Armed Forces during Operation Desert Storm, the US-led campaign against the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

Tragically, his experience has left him struggling with his civilian life; a life characterised by fatigue, chronic headaches, muscle pain and cognitive problems, encapsulated in what is termed Gulf War Syndrome as well as post-traumatic stress disorder.

You can read up on his story over on pages 8-9.

Serving his country, and South Yorkshire, has ultimately left Rodger with a very difficult lifestyle and by his own admission, he has at times contemplated suicide.

It’s imperative that more is done to help people deal with these issues – not just the physical injuries, but the mental scars, too.

It’s fantastic to see what has been done to help in cases like that of Doncaster’s Ben Parkinson, Britain’s most injured soldier, who was given cutting-edge treatment including being flown to Scotland for a new treatment called hyper-baric oxygen therapy involving being treated with oxygen in a diving tank.

But what of the thousands of former soldiers whose injuries are just as much on the inside?

Surely, more needs to be done to help those with mental health issues and to look at similarly cutting- edge ways of treating them – especially when they have come as a direct result of fighting for our country.

One unusual suggestion has come from 21-year-old Liz Hoyland.

Liz, who suffers with severe depression, is campaigning for people with mental health issues to be allowed guide dogs after her canines prevented a suicide attempt.

The Richmond animal lover believes they could help millions of people – see her appeal on page 13.

She says the dogs give her the confidence to leave the house, and because they can predict when she’s going to have a panic attack.

It might not work for everyone, but Liz’s idea is the kind of unusual thinking required to tackle mental health issues and ensure we are treating such trauma with the same importance and cutting-edge approach as physical injuries.

After all, when it comes to heroes like Rodger, the Government and the NHS can never do enough to repay their bravery.

But they have to try.