Veterans in the South West suffering from severe mental health problems will get quicker access to support thanks to £390,000 of funding from military charity Help for Heroes.
Help for Heroes is grant funding £390,000 to the South West Veterans Mental Health Service (SWVMHS) to improve mental health support to military veterans and reservists across the South West of England.
A former Private in the Army Air Corps, Chris Jones, 43, of Ivybridge, was discharged when he was just 25, barely able to walk. He suffered several injuries to both legs and now frequently uses a wheelchair. More recently, he was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. He has experienced feelings of inadequacy, guilt and failure ever since, because he can no longer do the only job he had ever wanted.
As his mental health began to deteriorate Chris sought help and was supported by a Psychological Wellbeing Advisor through Help for Heroes for four months before being signposted to the SWVMHS for further treatment. He was seen within two weeks and saw a mental health practitioner on a weekly basis for six months.
“Having someone to offload to, without any judgment, was just what I needed,” he explained.
“I was struggling with anger issues and could change at the click of a finger. At its least harmful I would scream obscenities at people, including my boss. At its most harmful, I would run people off the road.
“I trusted nobody, couldn’t socialise and hated relying on people. I would be as obnoxious as I could possibly be, and if someone was still willing to help me after that, I recognised they were probably worth opening up to. That’s exactly what happened with H4H and SWVMHS.”
Chris credits SWVMHS for turning his life around.
“Because I had to look after myself for so long, I was not prepared to accept help or have someone telling me there was something wrong. But the beauty about working with H4H and SWVMHS is that, providing you open the door just a fraction, they are there to walk alongside you until the door is fully open and you can see the light on the other side.
“They made me realise what my triggers were and how best to deal with them. I can now socialise happily with other people and can walk into a shop without wanting to leave immediately. Life is much calmer.”
He said the grant from H4H would benefit so many veterans with mental health problems.
“When your mental health is in the place mine was in, life can go horribly wrong very quickly. This grant will enable former soldiers like me to get help as soon as they ask for it. Sometimes, the window of opportunity to get help is so small because your frame of mind can change in an instant. That is why it is crucial to receive help immediately upon seeking it.”
Army veteran and PTSD sufferer Keith Rossiter-Webb, 53, of Bideford, served with the 2nd Battalion Queen’s Regiment for 13 years doing tours in Northern Ireland, Cyprus, Germany, Canada and Kenya. The horrors he saw left a lasting impact and he took 3 attempts on his life.
He said: “I saw some truly dreadful things. I was also shot at, involved in an explosion and set on fire 3 times. When I returned home, I became very argumentative and depressed and had changed dramatically as a person. Flashbacks and nightmares became regular and I couldn’t see a way out.”
Like Chris, Keith was referred to SWVMHS through H4H and has been supported by the service since January 2015.
“For the first time in a long time I didn’t feel patronised and felt safe and secure to really open up and my family say I’m back to the man I used to be.
“The service is so crucial and this grant will go a long way to changing so many lives like it did mine. Knowing SWVMHS are there, for as long as I need the support, is a huge comfort to me.”
Tim Hollingbery, Clinical Lead at Help for Heroes, said: “Help for Heroes is a charity leading the way in mental health support to members of the Armed Forces community. Many wounded or injured veterans need support with mental health problems and it is vitally important they get that support in a timely and effective manner.
“Help for Heroes have worked with SWVMHS, who are experts in their field in making a difference to psychological wellbeing of the veteran community, for the last two years. This grant funding is an extension of an already positive working relationship and will enable us to better meet the needs of veterans suffering with their mental health.
“The work of SWVMHS compliments Help for Heroes own psychological wellbeing service, Hidden Wounds, by supporting those in need of more complex mental health support, such as for PTSD.”
David Wilcox, Service Lead, at SWVMHS, added: “We are absolutely thrilled that SWVMHS is being supported by Help for Heroes to aid the psychological recovery of those affected by their military service by offering timely access to evidence-based and effective treatment. This funding enables us to employ qualified clinicians with experience of working with the military community to be based in Wiltshire, Dorset and Somerset. This will in turn better enable us to support and empower veterans and their families across the South West to overcome mental health difficulties and we are extremely grateful.”
The Hidden Wounds team can be contacted confidentially by calling 0808 2020 144 (free from UK landlines) weekdays 9am-5pm or via www.helpforheroes.org.uk/get-support. To contact the SWVMHS, email firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 0300 555 0112.