MPs have issued warnings that excessive alcohol consumption has become the ‘norm’ in the military and results in domestic abuse, mental health issues and violence.
The Commons Defence Committee has called on the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to develop and implement a ‘comprehensive strategy’ to reduce misuse, as well as challenge the culture of drinking. This should include a review of the price of alcohol and availability on military bases.
The committee stated that too many members of the armed forces seem to believe that alcohol is an integral part of team cohesion or believe that it is a suitable method to use when trying to cope with a return from military deployment.
The committee recognises that the MoD is aware of how serious this problem is, but it stated that the measures taken thus far have not had an impact on the levels of alcohol consumption, which result in devastating consequences for military personnel and their families.
Although criminal offence rates among military personnel are lower than for the general population, the rate for violent incidents was ‘substantially higher’, and it was often associated with drinking after deployment on combat operations.
The committee said that the MoD needs to better understand the connection between combat operation deployment, alcohol misuse and domestic violence. The Ministry should become more proactive at every level and re-examine its policies on domestic violence in a bid to develop plans for intervention to prevent domestic violence or, at least, to reduce the incidence of domestic violence.
Another problem which was highlighted by the committee was mental health.
The incidence of mental health issues among military personnel is on the same level as the general population, but those deployed in combat roles were likely to suffer double the normal rate of post-traumatic stress. This problem was pronounced among reservists.
According to the committee, the MoD has thus far failed to identify the reasons for the problem or to provide a suitable solution.
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