Veterans in Leeds struggling to cope with life after the military can now access a new service to support their mental health.
The charity Combat Stress has now launched the Peer Support Service for ex-servicemen and women in the city.
Funded by the Royal British Legion, it is aimed at supporting veterans who are experiencing loneliness and social isolation after leaving the military.
Its introduction comes as the YEP is running a week-long series of stories, to mark Mental Health Awareness Week.
We are also highlighting the issue as part of our #SpeakYourMind campaign, which launched in 2016 and aims to break down the damaging social stigma surrounding mental health.
Leeds has been chosen as one of 28 locations in the UK as a base for the Peer Support Service.
Delivered by Combat Stress, it will give veterans a chance to share their experience, hear advice and socialise with others who have been through similar experiences.
Ben Fitzgerald, a former Army welfare officer, will be co-ordinating the city’s new service.
He has experience of both military operations and the impact that the stress has on the lives of serving personnel and their families.
“Mental health problems can make even the simplest things seem hard to do,” he said.
“But this service is a way for veterans to easily access support and advice.
“Veterans have the chance to come along to small group meetings or to meet me individually.”
Many former servicemen and women can find it hard to make the adjustment to civilian life or find it confusing and distressing, after they finish their military service.
This can leave them struggling with changes to their identity and a feeling that few people around them truly understand what they’re experiencing, according to Combat Stress.
The charity said that between 2012 and 2017, it has seen an average of more than 2,000 referrals from veterans every single year.
From 2006 to 2016, referrals to Combat Stress rocketed by 143 per cent. The service is believed to be the first of its kind for veterans with mental health issues.
Carol Smith, director of client services at Combat Stress, said: “I’d like to thank The Royal British Legion for funding the Peer Support Service.
“Research has suggested that social support has a positive impact on mental health and the effects of trauma. Peer support aims to help by increasing social interaction amongst individuals who may otherwise feel isolated or stigmatised.”
Contact Combat Stress’ help-line on 0800 138 1619 to be referred to the new service.