Service will help veterans in Norfolk and Waveney
- Credit: Archant
A new service which will take expert help and peer support directly to veterans facing a mental health crisis has launched across Norfolk and Waveney.
Called the Veteran's Response Partnership, the initiative will see a special response car, manned by experienced volunteers, called to support veterans experiencing mental health crisis out-of-hours.
It is being run by the Walnut Tree Project in collaboration with Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT), HMP Norwich, Veterans Norfolk and Outside the Wire, a charity which works with ex-military personnel supporting veterans with bespoke substance misuse services.
Founder of the Walnut Tree Project, Luke Woodley, said: 'The service will provide vital out of hours support for veterans across Norfolk and Waveney who are living with mental ill health.
'This project has been developed for the last six month, and personally is a dream come true. I always wanted to develop a more formal way to help veterans, and I want to thank all the partners and local organisations that have supported the project.
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'I am particularly grateful to Dr Roger Kingerlee from the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, he has been the one who has always encouraged and pushed me beyond my boundaries.'
The project has already 20 veterans registered with the service, with Mr Woodley anticipating supporting around 100 in total.
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'We'll invite other forces' charities to register with the service and spread awareness about it with their members,' he said.
'We know veterans suffer from a wide range of mental health issues, not just the much talked about PTSD but other complex issues such as anxiety, depression and readjustment disorders.
'This is a pilot scheme, the first of its kind in the UK. But in the next months we aim to role the service out into the rest of Suffolk and then take it to a national level'.
The service will see volunteers who are themselves veterans or have experience of working in mental health or living with a condition called out to incidents. Working alongside specialist teams from NSFT, they will assess the individual and offer peer support, as well as helping them to access other services which may be able to help. The overall aim is to keep veterans out of police cells and get them any further support they may need, such as help with housing or employment issues or drink or drug problems.
Dr Roger Kingerlee, a Clinical Psychologist with NSFT who works has worked closely with Luke on a number of projects to help veterans with mental health problems, said: 'This is a fantastic initiative which will further increase the support available to this group at a time when they are – temporarily – at their most vulnerable.
'Luke has worked tirelessly over the past six months to launch the response car. Not only has he got the backing of local businesses, but has also forged some incredibly useful links with other veteran charities, such as Outside The Wire, who can offer help to those with substance misuse problems where appropriate.
'I hope that the initiative will help keep people out of the cells and instead get them the support which they may need, and set them on their way to recovery.'