A soldier mistakenly shooting a child while on duty has brought to light the severe consequences of untreated post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among military personnel. George Du Preez, a former private in the British Parachute Regiment, developed PTSD after the incident in 2011 but had to wait five years for therapy. Tragically, he ultimately took his own life. The case has raised concerns about the lack of adequate mental health support for veterans in Wales, where Du Preez moved with his family after being discharged from the Army.
Du Preez’s wife, Katriona, shared the distressing details of his struggle with PTSD. She revealed that he called her in 2011 questioning whether God would forgive someone who had killed a child. It later emerged that the target he had shot was indeed a child, which became a significant trigger for his PTSD. After being medically discharged in 2014, Du Preez and his family relocated to Bridgend, Wales, with the expectation that his treatment plan would continue seamlessly. However, the promised care did not materialize, and he was left waiting for therapy.
Despite receiving medication and several hospital admissions, Du Preez never received the therapy he desperately needed. Tragically, he was found dead by his wife at home in November 2019, still on the waiting list for treatment. His wife expressed frustration with the Cwm Taf Morgannwg health board, which failed to explain why her husband’s treatment had to start from scratch upon their move to Wales. She believes that more could have been done to provide her husband with veteran-specific mental health care in the years leading up to his death.
The case of George Du Preez highlights the inadequate mental health support available for veterans in Wales. With approximately 115,000 veterans residing in Wales, the Welsh government established Veterans NHS Wales in 2011 to provide dedicated therapists for veterans. Additionally, a new scheme was introduced in 2023 to enhance GP services for ex-military personnel and ensure that health boards have an armed forces champion. However, critics argue that therapy lists are full, and Wales lacks the necessary facilities to offer the same level of care available in England. The Army claims to have improved support systems to identify mental health distress and encourage earlier intervention.
The tragic story of George Du Preez emphasizes the urgent need for improved mental health services for veterans, especially those suffering from PTSD. It highlights the devastating consequences of delayed or inadequate treatment and the toll it takes on individuals and their families. While efforts have been made by the Welsh government and health boards to address the issue, more needs to be done to ensure that veterans receive the care they so desperately need and deserve.