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 - John Standish 

Armed forces veteran speaks out on overcoming alcohol addiction and tragic life events

A former armed forces veteran is speaking out about overcoming serious mental health problems in support of a new service set up to support fellow veterans in crisis.

John joined the Royal Air Force (RAF) Police in 1985 and served for six years, reaching the rank of Corporal. Whilst serving, John became embroiled in a drinking culture that he continued to struggle with after her left the military. However, life wasn’t kind to John after his stint in the RAF, and he had to face a number of traumas which led him to attempt suicide several times.

He received help from the NHS, Walking With The Wounded and other support agencies. During some of his most difficult times, John was admitted to an inpatient mental health ward in Northumberland. Whilst this was a helpful and positive experience, he feels more knowledge of the military in the NHS would have helped him recovery quicker.

From this week, the northern team of the Veterans’ Mental Health High Intensity Service is reaching out to mental health inpatient wards across the North of England to expand their service offer, which includes training for staff to help them support the needs of veterans in crisis. 

The High Intensity Service was launched in November 2020 as part of a national pilot programme to improve mental health services for veterans in crisis – working with locally-based mental health services where a veteran is based.

David Rowley, Head of Operations for Regional and Specialist Services at Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We’ve developed this through a strong collaboration between the NHS, support charities and, most importantly, veterans who have experienced services first hand. It is their stories that have shaped what we offer - notably around supporting their journey through treatment which can include their families.

“We know that veterans can struggle to engage with health services, particularly mental health, and sometimes it can take years for them to seek help. This means they can present in crisis to local services that might not have experience of dealing with veterans with complex mental health problems.

“That’s where we can really help. We have an expert team of clinicians and support officers, some of whom are veterans themselves. We’ll get involved really quickly and support veterans and their families through their immediate crisis and into longer term recovery.”

Find out more about the Veterans’ Mental Health High Intensity Service on their website.

Find out more about John's story here.