Bid to open pioneering rural retreat at Kelling Hospital to help veterans with post traumatic stress disorder

Jonathan Brackenbury at the proposed site for the Norfolk Veterans Retreat at Kelling Hospital.PHOTO

Jonathan Brackenbury at the proposed site for the Norfolk Veterans Retreat at Kelling Hospital.PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Part of north Norfolk's iconic landscape could be the base for a pioneering centre to help war veterans battling with the trauma of conflict.

Andi Osborne is running the Bungay Marathon to raise money for Combat Stress after her brother Andre

Andi Osborne is running the Bungay Marathon to raise money for Combat Stress after her brother Andrew Stillwell-Cox (pictured) committed suicide after suffering from the illness. PHOTO: submitted - Credit: Archant

People behind the Norfolk Veterans Retreat Project, made up of former servicemen, hope to open Britain's first site for veterans with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) on land at Kelling Hospital, near Holt.

The entrance to Kelling Sanatorium in the 1900s.

The entrance to Kelling Sanatorium in the 1900s.

The rural retreat, made up of six eco lodges across 1.6 hectares, would cost £500,000 to run for 10 years and could potentially help 3,000 people in that time.

Kelling Hospital isolation cabins.

Kelling Hospital isolation cabins.

If MOD funding and a 25-year peppercorn lease by the Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust were granted, the base would be open to any veteran, of any age, from any rank or service across Britain.

Project chairman Jonathon Brackenbury, 60, from Edmund Bacon Court, Norwich, said: 'A lot of PTSD sufferers end up on the streets, in the criminal justice system or killing themselves. If we can provide a little retreat for people it may raise the profile for PTSD in general and make the government realise this is a growing problem.'


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Mr Brackenbury, an aircraft engineer in the RAF from 1969-1979, has suffered with the disorder for 44 years.

He described people with the condition as the 'invisible wounded' and thought support for veterans with PTSD was underfunded.

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'There is nowhere near enough PTSD support for people in Norfolk,' Mr Brackenbury added.

Because of the condition he does not like going into crowded public spaces and the disorder can be triggered by simple sounds.

Mr Brackenbury first came to terms with PTSD after seeing an ex-army psychiatrist at Kelling Hospital in 2007.

If the retreat was opened veterans would have to be referred by a doctor and could stay up to 10 days at the 'peaceful' centre. It would link up with Combat Stress, be based around peer support and offer advice on where to get help, among other aspects.

It is hoped similar rural retreats will be opened around the country.

Search Norfolk Veterans Retreat on Facebook.

What do you think about the project? Email sophie.wyllie@archant.co.uk

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