It breaks my heart to see that in the last three weeks even more veterans have taken their own lives. Veteran Families across the UK are paying the ultimate price as veterans continue to die because of the lack of professional counselling and support services.
As a veteran, who struggles with PTSD and clinical depression, I understand just how difficult it is to get good mental health support after trying for almost two years myself to find it. When I was struggling and at my worst, I considered suicide daily, I could barely cope. crying out for help, only to be informed I was on a waiting list when I just left the army after 22 years service and at a time when veterans were a priority promised by the Prime Minister.
I am one of the lucky ones, I had someone to pull me back, the love of my father. Five years on and I still cry every day, it’s uncontrollable, I just burst into tears, can’t help it. They gave me medication to help with the anxiety and I come off it because it made me feel sleepy all the time and took away all emotions making me feel like I had been drinking and couldn’t function properly.
I still struggle to walk because of the extreme anxiety and sleep very little, my body is in a constant state of high alert, my heart misses beats and I get palpitations. In 2015 I started the mental health charity called Anxious Minds with my war pension to help myself and help others just like me, it is now a multi-award winning mental health charity and supports thousands of people a year.
When I first started I had the attitude of, ‘if you don’t like what’s happening do something about it’ I have worked there for the past five years as a volunteer (Chief Officer). Anxious Minds provides early intervention and long-term support for people struggling with mental health issues, we have 40 counsellors and 5 psychotherapists spread over three centres, because we provide counselling and psychotherapy as our main support, it’s been very difficult to get funding.
Over the past 5 years, we have had very little funding even though we support thousands of people. When applying for funding we usually get an excuse like ‘it’s available on the NHS’, which is true, if you have a year or so to wait for an appointment and even then it will be the minimum number of sessions, or another favourite excuse is we have already supported mental health projects like Art, Support Groups, Walking and so on, all great tools to help when you’re struggling with a little stress or part of your long-term support programme after you have received counselling or psychotherapy when you’re in a crisis.
It seems to me that some funders don’t really understand the difference between mental health support, like counselling and psychotherapy, delivered by trained professionals after years of study, and support for your mental well-being delivered by volunteers and support workers, and this is part of the problem. How crazy is it when signposting organisations are better funded than the services they send clients to?
I feel both the government and mental health services hide just how bad the situation is with mental health for both veterans and the wider community. As we only need to look at the news or on social media to see just how many veterans are taking their own lives each year, whilst waiting for professional services like Anxious Minds.
This is what General Lord Richard Dannatt, the ex-Chief of the General Staff, has to say about the price veteran families are paying.
Veteran suicides have become an ‘epidemic of our time’ the former head of the army has warned.
General Lord Richard Dannatt, the ex-Chief of the General Staff, revealed he is appalled by the growing suicide rates in the UK, describing the situation as a ‘tragedy’ and says more needs to be done to stop traumatised British soldiers killing themselves.
Military charity sources fear hundreds of veterans in the UK have killed themselves since the start of last year – although there is no concrete figure to support this. However, Gen Lord Dannatt, who was in charge of the army from 2006 to 2008, said the tragedy was not one exclusive to military personnel. Civilians are increasingly committing suicide he said, and was critical of social media for adding pressure on people.
In 2018 across the UK and Republic of Ireland, 6,859 people killed themselves, according to charity Samaritans, with the UK recording a 10.9 per cent rise in the suicide rate in 2018. Since then it has increased even more and when we challenge local authorities they say we haven’t got a mental health problem.
Tell that to the hundreds of families that lose loved ones each year due to suicide.
With your support, small local mental health charities like Anxious Minds can do even more. Please play the mental health lottery.