Window on Veterans world for War and Psychiatry students

May 15, 2012

Guest lecturer Dr Hugh Milroy gave students of War and Psychiatry at King’s College London an insight into the problems affecting servicemen and women after discharge.

Speaking at the Institute of Psychiatry he said, “It is poverty, not military service, that leads to homelessness – and it’s wrong to say that nothing is done for the few veterans who get into difficulties. There are 3,000 charities offering help of all kinds to those who leave the Armed Forces; in fact I believe you are ‘citizen plus’ if you are a veteran in the UK today.”

Dr Milroy, who was invited to speak by programme leader of the MSc course, Professor Edgar Jones, offered insights from three perspectives. He said “I am a Gulf War veteran myself – one of the ‘chemical people’ who received a cocktail of injections before deployment – a practitioner, as CEO of Veterans Aid, and also an academic.” A former RAF officer Dr Milroy is also Senior Visiting Research Fellow at King’s College, in the Department of War Studies.

Last year Veterans Aid took around 2,000 calls for help, provided 20,000 nights of accommodation, moved 150 former street dwellers into sustainable homes of their own, and got dozens back into education and employment.

Students questioned Dr Milroy about how the many military charities were coping with the recession, their levels of expertise and how the media shaped public understanding of what it meant to be a veteran. They also asked what he attributed VA’s success rate to in terms of helping veterans to reclaim their lives and beating addictions.

“Everyone who comes to us is alone” he said. “VA is about veteran helping veteran, as in a family. And our philosophy is one of well-being, not welfare and that distinguishes us. We look at the individual’s needs first, not what the system offers.”

With reference to the students’ specific area of study Dr Milroy said, “PTSD is not an automatic consequence of military service or combat – or something that only servicemen and women experience. That is just as much a myth as the assumption that all veterans are heroes.

“Some of those who come to Veterans Aid have served for just three weeks,” he explained adding that for most their problems pre-dated military service.

“The debate that needs to be held today is one about whether veterans should have any special rights – and if so, what they are,” he told the students whose number included former and serving military personnel.

After the lecture Professor Jones said, “Sadly the issue of the homeless veteran is far from being a new one. An effective intervention requires understanding, professional expertise and empathy for military culture. Veterans Aid have eighty years’ experience working successfully in this field so it is important that our students, some of whom will become practitioners, learn from an organisation with a proven track record”.