A new mental health service supporting military veterans is being launched in Leeds to tackle a sharp rise in referrals.
The Veterans’ Mental Health Complex Treatment Service for the North of England will offer therapies for armed forces veterans experiencing psychological trauma, and treatments including help with substance misuse, physical health, employment, accommodation, relationships and finances.
Launching in April, it is being run by Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, with support from the Combat Stress charity, and will offer care for up to 130 veterans.
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Mental health referrals to the charity have risen by nearly 150 per cent over the last 10 years, and veterans have waited on average for more than a decade before seeking help, the trust said.
Former Army medical officer Lawrence Atkins, now a specialist doctor at the trust, said there are still barriers in the armed forces when it comes to mental health.
“When people leave the military, they can find it difficult to adapt to a civilian lifestyle and that transition can be problematic, long-term and significant,” he said.
“We know that within the military, there are still some barriers to recognising the existence of a mental health problem. People can end up leaving the forces with a mental health condition that has been left undisclosed and untreated.”
The announcement about the service comes after plans to create a new helpline to give troops suffering from mental health problems round-the-clock support were unveiled by the Ministry of Defence this week.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson on Monday pledged an extra £20m in funding to pay for the hotline and other new support services over the next decade.
It follows calls by campaigners, including Lord Dannatt - former head of the British Army - for more help for struggling soldiers.
The fresh support will be come from a team who are “in tune” with military needs, delivered by staff based throughout the region, the trust said.
It will combine the practical health expertise of the NHS with the vital work and knowledge of Combat Stress, which has offered support to ex-servicemen and women for mental health issues for nearly a century.
The service will build on the NHS Veterans’ Mental Health Transition, Intervention and Liaison Service which launched on in 2017, as a first intervention for veterans with a mental health need.
Veterans will be referred into the new service via the Transition, Intervention and Liaison Service, which is run by in the north by Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust.
Sue Freeth, chief executive of Combat Stress, said: “We are pleased to be working with Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust to deliver the Veterans’ Mental Health Complex Treatment Service.
“For almost a century Combat Stress has provided a dedicated service to support and treat former servicemen and women with mental health problems.
“Although most of today’s service personnel transition successfully from the military to civilian life, a significant minority develop mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression and post- traumatic stress disorder. Left untreated, this can have a devastating impact on veterans and their loved ones.”
The trust was chosen by NHS England to provide the new service for the North.