The leading provider of mental health services for armed forces veterans in Wales is calling for more veterans to reach out and seek the support they need.
Veterans’ NHS Wales say that despite supporting an ever increasing number of former armed forces personnel there remains a significant number of veterans with service related mental health difficulties who are suffering in silence.
They are urging veterans who are struggling with their mental health as a result of their experiences in service, or difficulties adjusting to civilian life, to contact them so they can start to receive the support they need.
“There is a stigma around seeking mental health support and people can be struggling for quite a few years before they do come forward and seek support” explained Veterans NHS Wales Psychological Therapist, Karen Hawkings.
“We want to ensure that every veteran in Wales knows that they are not alone, and we can provide the support they need to help them deal with their problems and get on with their lives.”
Their call has been backed by Tom Adamson from Llandegfan, Anglesey, who says he’d be dead without the intervention of Veterans’ NHS Wales five years ago.
The 59 year old developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after serving in Northern Ireland and spent four decades battling flashbacks, sleep problems and anger issues before psychological therapy provided by Veterans’ NHS Wales helped him to come to terms with his problems.
“The hard thing for a veteran is accepting that you have a problem, and there is a culture in the armed forces that looking for support is a weakness” he explained.
“I can honestly say that therapy has done me the world of good and the people around me tell me how much I’ve changed.
“It’s important people realise that it’s not a short term fix, and to make the therapy work you’ve got to open up and let everything out.”
After joining the Army at the age of 16 in 1974, Mr Adamson served with the King’s Regiment in Northern Ireland as an Infantry Soldier and Corporal before leaving in 1981. He now combines running the Anglesey Brewing Company with his voluntary work as a Director with veterans support group UK Veterans – One Voice.
As he approaches his 60th birthday later this month he says he feels a heavy sense of guilt at reaching the milestone while some of his late armed forces colleagues haven’t.
He said: “The harsh reality is that PTSD and feelings of guilt will never go away completely. But Veterans’ NHS Wales have been a godsend in helping me to understand my guilt and helping me to deal with it.
“I’d encourage any veteran struggling with their mental health to contact Veterans’ NHS Wales, as getting therapy really can help to make life a hell of a lot easier.”
Veterans’ NHS Wales is one of a number of support services available to the estimated 50,000+ veterans living in North Wales.
Veterans can self-refer to the service via the Veterans’ NHS Wales website at www.veteranswales.co.uk or be referred via their GP.
If you need help or want to talk to someone about your mental health, you can contact the 24-hour confidential Community Advice and Listening Line for Wales on 0800 123737 or text: “HELP” to 81066. For more information please visit www.callhelpline.org.uk.