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Rethinking combat stress support for veterans

11th March 2011

New 24-hour veteran support helpline launched today.

Veterans with mental health problems will get targeted support from today with the launch of the new Combat Stress Support Helpline, being delivered by Rethink Mental Illness and funded by the Government.

Health Minister Simon Burns today unveiled a new 24-hour freephone helpline number, 0800 138 1619, to help veterans and their families access expert advice from people trained and experienced in dealing with ex-Service men and women and their often complex mental health needs.

The Government is giving £200,000 to fund the running of a one year pilot of the helpline. This reinforces the Government’s commitment to support the health needs of all veterans who have given so much for this country. The helpline, announced in October 2010, was supported by Dr Andrew Murrison in his review into the provision of mental health services for veterans. The Department of Health has nominated the charities Combat Stress and Rethink Mental Illness, both leaders in their respective fields of supporting veterans and those with a mental illness, to run the service together. With their combined expertise, the helpline will provide:

  • Round the clock support for veterans;
  • Diverse ways to access mental health support including advice via telephone, and later this year text and email;
  • Support to veterans’ families, whose lives can be affected as a result of mental health problems, with improved support to help them to access mental health services in their local area; and
  • Provide assistance in accessing further advice on other social problems affecting veterans including housing and employment advice.

Health Minister Simon Burns said:

“This funding will provide veterans and their families with a service that will help and support them whenever and wherever they need it. This is part of our commitment to deliver the best possible health outcomes to veterans.

“We are working with Combat Stress to ensure that veterans and their families can get free and impartial advice.  The helpline, delivered by Rethink Mental Illness, will provide mental health support to help deal with issues that can seriously blight so much of their lives.

“This is also a great example of how the expertise of charities can be used to foster a stronger and healthier society.”

Andrew Robathan, the Minister for Defence Personnel, Welfare, and Veterans, said:

"The mental health of our personnel and veterans is a top priority of the Government and it is right that we do all we can to support them and their families. The launch of this 24-hour helpline, specifically designed to support veterans, is further proof of the close working relationship between this country’s charities and Government and allows those with the greatest expertise to help those in need whatever the hour.”

Dr Andrew Murrison MP said:

“It is great to see that with the help of the Department of Health, Combat Stress and Rethink this 24-hour helpline is being launched today. I am confident that it will give ex-Service men and women the support they not only need but deserve, given the sacrifices they have made for this country."

Dr Walter Busuttil, Director of Medical Services, Combat Stress said:

“Our aim is to ensure that each veteran receives the right care, in the right place, at the right time. This helpline will be a key part of our strategy to reach out to more veterans with wounded minds and encourage them to seek help earlier.

“It will also take us a step further in supporting the all too often forgotten families of ex-Service personnel, for whom mental health problems can be a daily challenge. This 24-hour helpline will be a vital first step in accessing much needed help.”

Paul Jenkins, Rethink Mental Illness Chief Executive said:

“We are delighted that veterans and their families will now have somewhere to turn day or night. Rethink Mental Illness is the largest charity provider of mental health services and has more than 40 years’ experience so we understand the vital importance of providing hope and support to people at their most vulnerable.”

The launch of the new helpline is supported by a range of psychological therapies that veterans experiencing mental health problems will be able to request to help them improve their mental health and wellbeing. The £200,000 forms part of an additional £7.2 million investment made available in the Government's ‘No health without mental health’ outcomes strategy. Alongside the helpline, the Department of Health is also working with the Royal College of General Practitioners to develop training tools for GPs to better recognise the needs of veterans and provide the best support.

The helpline will be delivered by Rethink Mental Illness using a combination of permanent and volunteer staff to staff the phones 24 hours a day, and will have significant support from Combat Stress. Through their campaign, “The Enemy Within Appeal” Combat Stress has cemented their position across the country as the first port of call for many ex-Service personnel suffering from a variety of mental health issues. The appeal is directly tackling the issue of stigma in mental health among veterans. This has been highly successful in getting more ex-Service personnel to open up about their experiences and seek treatment sooner than has historically been the case.

 

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