The CEO of a prominent veteran charity says military organizations are starting to cynically over-hype post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to bring in more donations.
Ed Parker, CEO of Walking With The Wounded, a charity based in the United Kingdom, told Sky News that because the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are winding down, organizations have had to switch tactics to boost fundraising.
“You are always going to slightly sensationalise how you fundraise,” Parker, himself a veteran, told The Times. “You do that with a Mars advert or buying a McDonald’s. You are always going to make it look better than it actually is, or more enticing.”
Since the numbers of killed and wounded are rapidly dropping, military charities have overstated just how widespread the PTSD rate is among servicemembers returning from theaters in the Middle East.
In the U.S., 7-8 percent of the population experiences PTSD once in their lifetime. The Department of Veterans Affairs notes that between 11-20 percent of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from PTSD.
“What we’re saying is the context is misleading,” Parker added. “If one looks at academic data that’s been produced out of King’s College, London, the prevalence of PTSD within the military community is roughly the same as within society – round about 4% or 5%… which is still a relatively small proportion of the mental health challenges that are faced by veterans.”
Instead, Parker noted that veterans more often suffer from alcohol abuse, depression and anxiety. When PTSD sucks up all the funds, programs treating these other health issues fall by the wayside.
That being said, Parker did back off his initial claims, by saying he didn’t think PTSD has been exaggerated. Rather, he simply wants to put PTSD in a proper context, relative to other more prevalent mental health injuries sustained by servicemembers returning from war.
“The key thing to understand is we’re not saying PTSD has been exaggerated,” Parker said. “It’s vital that that point is made because those who do suffer from PTSD are challenged by a really, really difficult condition.”