8 Sep 2014

Soldiers turn to anonymous app to share PTSD struggles

Dozens of members and veterans of the British armed forces are turning to new anonymous apps to share their struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder, Channel 4 News has found.

Dozens of British soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder are using the Whisper app, which allows people to post anonymous messages and pictures, Channel 4 News has found.

Whisper functions like an anonymous social network and it is being used by current and former members of the forces to post messages such as: “I saw my best mate blown up by an IED… Then my girlfriend says my PTSD is in my head.”

The charity Combat Stress has told Channel 4 News that it is now considering a more pro-active approach to reach out to the members of the armed forces and veterans who post to apps like Whisper.

One serving member who posted a message about PTSD to the app told Channel 4 News: “I feel I should not go looking for sympathy, nor sharing my stories. I find it hard talking about it and wish not to make it worse.”

I watched my friends head explode when he was shot dead in Afghanistan Now I have PTSD I am an empty shell of a person. Who can't look at himself in the mirror.

The above post to Whisper received 1855 ‘”hearts”, akin to a Facebook “like”, and 97 replies. One user replied: “I hope you’re getting medical help for your condition and sincerely hope things improve for you”.

‘Stigma’ of PTSD

Dr Walter Busuttil, director of medical services for the charity Combat Stress, told Channel 4 News: “Veterans turn to these anonymous apps because they fear the stigma of being identified as having a mental health condition. Many are ashamed or embarrassed about their condition, sometimes too afraid to tell their own family.

“The shame, guilt and fearing the loss of their career are enormous barriers for them to overcome. So anonymising their problems can be helpful to them. [Using these apps] may be something Combat Stress does in the future.”

I saw my best mate blown up by a IED.... Then my girlfriend says my PTSD is in my head!!

Neetzan Zimmerman, editor in chief of Whisper, told Channel 4 News: “Whisper’s airtight anonymity offers users a safe and secure space to express themselves without fear of retribution or judgement.”

“On Whisper, soldiers can anonymously connect with other soldiers who may be suffering from the same affliction and are able to impart helpful advice or words of consolation.”

“Merely being able to interact with fellow soldiers in a safe and secure environment and feel less alone can have a powerful, therapeutic effect, and Whisper is proud to facilitate those exchanges.”

Combat Stress provides a 24-hour helpline for veterans, serving personnel and families. The phone number is 0800 138 1619.

Here is a range of ‘Whispers’ posted by personnel and veterans:

I am a British soldier living with PTSD as my reward for serving my country and all I want is to have someone I can love and who will love me even though I'm half the man I used to be

about to leave the forces, have anger management issues and secondary PTSD, time to get help

Worst thing about having PTSD is having a break down in a cafe on a monday morning -_-

Miss serving my country. PTSD sucks

I have PTSD and my family dont take it serious

I havr ptsd but thw army refuse to help me now I have been discharged for it

I am ex army recovering from ptsd my dad hospitalised me as a kid was an introvert had gf's cheat as well as other shit and never cut... deal with it

I joined the army just after turning 18 I'm now 27 and suffer from ptsd but I don't want to claim help for it is there any other way round it please help if you can ?

PTSD seriously may be the death of me. The worst part is nobody understands how hard everyday is.

I think my brother has PTSD after 4 tours in Afghanistan but he won't get help... He called me at 1 in the morning crying... He freaks out when there's a loud bang... I wish I could help him...

When in Iraq my boyfriend had to treat dying children with medical equipment designed for adults. He is now an alcoholic with PTSD & hasn't worked since leaving the army 6 years ago.

My ex suffers from PTSD. His military friends think I was a tag chasing, gold digger. The real reason I left is because he tried to strangle me and threatened to kill our son.

I'm proud of my boyfriend for serving our country but his PTSD is destroying me. It's so hard to watch him go through that.

I think my friend in the Marine Corp is suffering from PTSD, I don't know how to help him?!