More than 300 former soldiers have sought specialist treatment to help them deal with the legacy of the North's Troubles in the last year, it was revealed today.
Full-time and part-time troops who served in the region during the worst of the conflict received psychological counselling under the British Army’s £2m (€2.52m) Aftercare Service.
Soldiers still troubled by injuries sustained in the campaign were also treated.
There are now plans to expand the care programme, which was set up in November last year, to cope with the numbers seeking help.
The initiative was established to help ex-soldiers adjust to civilian life after the Royal Irish Regiment’s home-based battalions were stood down.
More than 3,000 applied for assistance under the wider scheme, which also offers retraining opportunities, welfare assistance and other services.
Around 400 former troops signed up for the career development programme.
Peter Baillie, director of the Aftercare Service, said dealing with the Troubles had taken a physical and mental toll on former soldiers and their families.
“It is entirely appropriate that we acknowledge the debt owed by the community to our colleagues with practical assistance, even years after their service ceased,” he said.
“We must continue to provide them with support to lead normal work and family lifestyles free from the pressures caused by service in the Security Forces.”
During the conflict, 271 serving and former soldiers were killed directly by terrorist activity with 640 left physically disabled. More than 60,000 troops served in Northern Ireland during that period.
The Aftercare Service is based in Palace Barracks, Holywood, Co Down and has 12 of its 25 staff located in offices in Coleraine, Enniskillen and Portadown.
“Having been in existence for a full year it is obvious that our service is not only necessary but also well received by those who have benefited from our support,” added Mr Baillie.
“Statistics prove that work undertaken by the Aftercare Service would not otherwise have been available to this deserving element of the community. ”Given that many of our colleagues made the ultimate sacrifice it is important to remember their dedication to duty and also to acknowledge that we continue to have a major responsibility towards those who survive them as colleagues and families.
“We must ensure that those who contributed in no small way to establishing the more peaceful place that Northern Ireland has become are properly supported and assisted to thrive as valuable members of this society.”