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.”
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.”
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.”
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: