American Sniper

Stop Portraying Veterans As 'Doolally', Minister Tells Filmmakers

A defence minister says inaccurate depictions of veterans can blight their chances of getting a job...

American Sniper

Bradley Cooper starred as Chris Kyle in the 2014 film 'American Sniper'.

The career prospects of former servicemen and women are being harmed by the portrayal of veterans in films, a defence minister has warned.

Veterans minister and former Army Captain Tobias Ellwood says some films give the impression that veterans have been left "doolally" by their experiences of combat – leaving some people reluctant to hire them.

Hollywood hits from the 'Deer Hunter' to 'American Sniper' have depicted veterans struggling to adapt to civilian life.

While the recent popular TV series the 'Bodyguard' showed the impact of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) on an ex-soldier.

Mr Ellwood told political magazine 'The House' that the perception that forces veterans are likely to be damaged is "decidedly untrue and unhelpful". He cited studies which found that 90% of the population thought that forces veterans might be "damaged".

Tobias Ellwood MP
Tobias Ellwood attracted national attention after he rushed to help police after last year's attack on Westminster.

Mr Ellwood said that, in fact, ex-service personnel were "less likely to have mental health issues, less likely to go to prison, less likely to commit suicide", than their civilian counterparts.

"Absolutely the majority - 90% - of those who do the transition process that we have are in education or in a job within six months of leaving. And that's great news, but we need to communicate that further."

Asked if attitudes framed by movies could be harming veterans' career hopes, Mr Ellwood said: "Completely.

"You could have this attitude where an employer who's not familiar with the armed forces, they may say, 'two people, one has served in the armed forces, are they going to go doolally on me?'

"We need to kill that attitude because it's decidedly untrue and unhelpful.

"We're doing a lot of work with employers themselves, with businesses and organisations, so they can see the value of that."

Mr Ellwood said that every suicide was "a tragedy" and revealed that he has invited former heads of the Armed Forces in to discuss their concerns over the numbers of veterans who take their own lives.

The Ministry of Defence has asked the Ministry of Justice to ensure that any connections with the armed forces are noted on coroners' reports.

"We are dealing with - this is the tough environment of the Armed Forces - very stoic, very proud individuals," said Mr Ellwood.

"There is a macho environment there, a real reluctance to put your hand up and say there is anything wrong with your mind.

"That is why last year we launched a brilliant strategy to change the stigma surrounded with mental health.

"Just like a knee injury, it should be treated the same, physical and mental should be treated the same."