Veterans' mental-health charity gets recognised

VETERANS’ health and wellbeing services have been established in the NHS in Wales for just two years, but the value of the work they do in helping former service personnel address serious mental health issues has already received UK recognition.

The service provided in Gwent by Aneurin Bevan Health Board – part of a Wales-wide network with its main base in Cardiff – was shortlisted back in May in the Care for Veterans category of the Military and Civilian Health Partnership Awards.

More than 80 entries were received for that category, and the service was among just four to reach the shortlist.

It is an achievement of which community veterans therapist Vanessa Bailey is rightly proud, but a busy case load means that she and fellow therapist Max Bergmanski have had little time to dwell on it.

The result of a pilot project back in 2008, the All-Wales Veterans’ Health and Wellbeing Service is Welsh Government-funded, and has the key aims of improving the mental health and wellbeing of veterans, and developing sustainable, accessible and effective services that meet the needs of those veterans in Wales with mental health and wellbeing difficulties.

“We get one or two referrals a week and we think that is about right,” said Ms Bailey.

“The majority are related to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Some referrals might not meet the diagnosis threshold, but they can come with a lot of co-morbidities, like depression and generalised anxiety.

“The vast majority are men, but we are interested in seeing more women – and it is important to try to get a general picture of mental health and wellbeing issues across the services.”

An open referral system operates with veterans being able to refer themselves in, or give their consent for someone else to do it for them.

or psychological treatment, and my caseload for treatment is 16 at the moment,” she said.

Ms Bailey added: “We have no waiting list for assessment.

“Some who present are involved in high-risk, harmful drinking, some might be alcohol dependent.” And we work closely with services such as GSSMS (Gwent Specialist Substance Misuse Service). We also have strong links with organisations such as Combat Stress, (armed forces and families support charity) SSAFA, and the Royal British Legion.”

As well as having expertise in treating common mental health problems including PTSD, the therapists are trained in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and/or Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR).

Veterans with more complex needs may be referred on to other NHS mental-health services.

l Full details of the All-Wales Veterans’ Mental Health and Wellbeing Service, along with health board links, can be looked at online by visitingveteranswales.co.uk

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