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Veterans provided with a Head Start on World Mental Health Day

Mental health problems can affect any individual at any time. World Mental Health Day take place on October 10th and it is observed in more than 100 countries. It presents an opportunity to show our support for better mental health provision and that includes looking after ourselves.

The most effective way of dealing with stigma attached to poor mental health is through having a better understanding of these problems.  Stigma can make it difficult for those affected to seek help.  According to recent estimates, only one quarter of individuals will embark upon a treatment programme.  Those who are affected by mental health problems will experience a range of problems such as isolation to relying on family and friends for support.   We need to identify and address these issues promptly. 

Walking with the Wounded launched its Head Start programme in 2015 to increase capacity for ex-service personnel seeking timely therapeutic interventions. Our offer of treatment for mild to moderate to severe presentations and comorbidity of harmful alcohol misuse is in response to Kings College Mental Health Research (KCMHR).

KCMHR found common mental health difficulties and alcohol misuse as the most frequently reported mental disorders in UK Armed Forces. Recent studies have shown that the prevalence rate for PTSD in military veterans was 7.4%.  For the first time, this suggests that veterans were at increased risk of PTSD compared with the public in the UK. 

The NHS has primacy for the healthcare of the ex-serving community, but Head Start complements statutory support where there are delays for one to one therapy or a culturally sensitive service is being sought.

Head Start funds 12 therapy sessions within the ex-service personnel community. Our target is to deliver sessions within 10 working days of receiving the client’s consent and within 10 miles of their home (with the exception of rural areas, which may be up to 20 miles).

The programme has been a success. Since 2015, Head Start has supported 1181 referrals, and approved 947 veterans to receive therapy. For example, George (not his real name) is a 44-year-old Army veteran who served in Northern Ireland.  He left the army in 1999 and his symptoms manifested shortly after this compounded by problems adjusting to civilian life.  He found he was unable to settle into any one job and his relationship with his wife and children deteriorated.  George was experiencing low mood, anxiety and symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress.  He was referred into WWTW Head Start by his GP in 2018.  Head Start were able to allocate a therapist for him within 10 days of him returning his signed consent.  He received a total 17 sessions at a cost of £1165.00.  This resulted in him being able to return to fulltime employment and reconnect with his family and friends.  His quality of life has improved and his insight into managing his difficulties have helped him to achieve this.

‘My therapist made me look deep into myself and helped me to sort myself out.  This therapy has changed my life for the better.  I apply everything I have been taught and keep a journal.  It makes it easier to know what to deal with on a daily basis and crack on with my life.  I looked at myself and how I was 2 years ago and do not recognise that person.  It was not me.  My only wish is that more Veterans were aware of WWTW and the Head Start programme. 

All the guys out there that need help and need to open up, there is help available that could change their future.' Veteran George

WWTW Head Start embraces World Mental Health Day and strives to challenge the stigma attached to poor mental health as well as continuing to reach our targets in improving ex-service personnel’s experience of accessing support.