Veterans from across Norfolk who are struggling with mental health issues are being offered more support to help them manage their conditions thanks to some specially-designed new services.
Three services have been developed and managed by a partnership of Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) and The Walnut Tree Project, which supports veterans with mental health conditions. They are:
• The Veterans’ Stabilisation Programme (VSP) – which is a 16-week course which uses cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and mindfulness meditation to help veterans with anxiety, depression, chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) develop the skills to better manage the transition to civilian life. This can include ways to cope with difficult feelings and memories, help reducing drug or alcohol use and practical advice to improve relationships.
• Veterans’ Peer Support Clinics – which are weekly drop-in sessions open to anyone who would like help with mental health conditions or advice about housing or benefits. An additional all-female group, thought to be the first of its kind in the country, has also been set up to give ex-servicewomen the chance to discuss issues important to them.
• The Veterans’ Response Partnership – which sees a special response car manned by experienced volunteers take expert out-of-hours help directly to veterans in mental health crisis. Veterans can sign up to the scheme themselves, while other British Forces charities and organisations are also able to register individuals.
The services have all been developed by former army guardsman Luke Woodley, who founded The Walnut Tree Project, and NSFT Clinical Psychologist Dr Roger Kingerlee.
Luke’s career with the Coldstream Guards was cut short when he developed PTSD following a tour of war-torn Bosnia. After years of trying different types of support, he felt he only began to make sustained progress when he started receiving support from Roger in 2005. “Veterans are twice as likely to encounter depression and anxiety as their civilian counterparts,” said Luke. “They can experience reoccurring memories or social isolation, and have difficulty forming relationships, emotional problems or anger issues, while some will also self-medicate using drink or drugs. “They can also be very dif¬ficult to reach – they are very self-reliant and are used to being incredibly ¬fit and active with lots of responsibilities – which means they can find it very difficult to ask for help, especially around mental health.”
Roger added: “We knew we had to create services which veterans can identify with, are as easy as possible to access and where they would feel safe and understood. “We also work with lots of other agencies, so people can access a whole raft of support just by dropping in. Our aim is to be very proactive, go out and connect with these people, take them by the hand and lead them to a better place.”
For more information on the veterans’ initiatives run by NSFT and The Walnut Tree Project, visit www.nsft.nhs.uk/Find-help/Pages/Help-for-veterans.aspx or https://www.facebook.com/walnuttreeproject/