Mental health takeover: Veterans’ mental health is so much more than PTSD

Former soldier, Luke Woodley from Costessey, who developed PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and

Former soldier, Luke Woodley from Costessey, who developed PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and is now helping others with the condition. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2015

Veteran and chief executive of the Walnut Tree Health and Wellbeing CIC, Luke Woodley talks about the kind of mental health support veterans need - and it is not just PTSD.

When you think of military veterans' mental health – if you think about it at all – it's likely that Post Traumatic Stress (PTSD) is the first thing that springs to mind. That's understandable, it gets the headlines. But that's not the whole story.

Military personnel are twice as likely to suffer depression and/or anxiety than civilians. And while you might assume mental ill health is combat related, its source is often childhood issues, exacerbated by military service.

At The Walnut Tree Project, we work with veterans with a wide range of issues including depression, anxiety, adjustment disorders and substance abuse as well as those with clinically diagnosed PTSD. Did you know the percentage of military veterans with PTSD is about the same as the general population? It affects about 5pc of individuals. The figure jumps to 7pc for those who served in the frontline infantry, as medics or as reservists.

Behind those numbers there are human beings with complex needs. The funding is inadequate and the care needs are challenging. Mental ill health isn't like a broken arm. There isn't a quick fix. It takes time, persistence and focused resources to reach personal recovery.


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We run two unique services: The Veterans Stabilisation Programme (a 16-week treatment programme in partnership with Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust) and the Veterans Response Partnership (two cars operating across Norfolk and Waveney, delivering specialist crisis support directly to veterans). In the 9 months since the Response Service launched, we've responded to 88 callouts and directly saved 12 lives. I'm proud of that but with greater funding, we could do so much more.

Our services are underpinned by the Veterans Drop-in Session. Every Thursday, from 10am to 13:30, veterans and their families meet at Bowthorpe Community Hub in Norwich. There's coffee, the opportunity to speak to our staff without an appointment and, most importantly, the chance to make friends and feel less isolated. Dealing with loneliness also informs our other projects.

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So next time you read a report about military veterans and mental health, think of the work we and many others are doing. There are lots of shades of grey beyond the black and white headlines.

• For more from the EDP's special mental health takeover edition, click here.

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