Why is it that, at the moment, whenever our troops are mentioned, it is in the context of PTSD - even in a recent BBC special about Northern Ireland.
Don't get me wrong - PTSD exists. It's real. Research might even have been able to link it so specific patterns in brain activity that are out of balance. We send our troops to some pretty nasty places and, despite the best of preparation, sometimes situations occur with which some of them can't cope. The same goes for our police force, ambulance staff, firefighters. Most of the time, our troops are not in combat - and life in the barracks can actually be pretty boring.
Yes, they deserve our respect and our understanding. It is hard to believe that there are still veterans who, after decades of suffering, have not been given a diagnosis. And those who have are quite often prescribed a whole cocktail of medication which is disabling in itself. But there is a dangerous downside to the current media coverage: it adds to a negative stereotype. First they were just uneducated, violent and potential addicts; now they are ill and need looking after. What they are not is normal human beings, like you and I.
Statistically, one in four troops returning from combat zones will develop symptoms of PTSD.
Also statistically, one in four in the general population will develop mental health symptoms at some stage in their lives.
I have seen the stage play "The Two Worlds of Charlie F.". And I have also just seen the film adaptation of "Sunshine over Leath". The first was mesmerizing, extraordinarily well acted. (By that I mean that it was what I expected after all the many conversations I have had with people who had come extremely close to similar events. Obviously, I have never seen anything like it myself.) The latter was actually much more useful - two young soldiers who had just left the Army. They were struggling with life - but a lot of that was actually independent of their time in the Army.
They are among us. And most of them are actually pretty normal. Yes, they sometimes struggle - but for different reasons. They might not understand the hidden rules in civilian organisations. They might expect actions to be carried out. They will be irritated if after three meetings it is still not clear what ought to be achieved. But they can adjust. Having been made redundant might actually prove a much bigger trauma than a few months in a "hostile environment".
What they struggle with the most is our stereotypes and prejudices! Headlines like "Homecoming Horrors" in today's Shortlist certainly don't help.