Ex-soldiers facing up to challenges of civilian life

By Stephen Corrigan / Connacht Tribune – Galway City Tribune

It is said that members of the defence forces “lead a life less ordinary” and when their working days come to an end, ex-service personnel continue to be faced with a particular set of challenges.

Those issues, which can often be attributed to trauma experienced over years of service, manifest in a variety of ways but the results can be catastrophic for those affected.

The Organisation of National Ex-Service Personnel, or ONE, was set up in the 1950s to provide support for those leaving the army behind, but over the last few years, the organisation has reinvigorated its mission to address the problems of former army, air corps and navy members.

Veteran Support Officer Steven Shields tells the Connacht Tribune that over the past three years, he has dealt with over 100 Galway men and women who sought assistance and counselling from the service for a variety of reasons.

“What we are seeing is Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), homelessness, addiction problems, alcoholism, grief, anger management and mental health issues that range from general anxiety to major depression. There are also related issues such as domestic abuse and financial issues,” he says.

Members of the forces live a very particular lifestyle, explains Steven, spending prolonged periods away from home whether on training exercises or peacekeeping missions abroad.

As a result, they have markedly different experiences from other members of the population, and those who spent time overseas will often have witnessed the most traumatic events that have life-changing impacts.

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