By Sue Freeth, Chief Executive, Combat Stress.
Combat Stress’ residential programmes for veterans living with mental health problems are respected around the world. So why is the UK withdrawing £3.2 million in funding from this life saving work?
The recent announcement of our new helpline for those serving in the armed forces is most welcome. So too is NHS England’s investment in specialist mental health community services for veterans. But these services alone are not enough.
As a country, we must not ‘put all our eggs in one basket’ by relying solely on community based mental health services, whilst abandoning support for the residential treatments which are proven to be so effective. This would be a great injustice for the men and women who have so bravely served our country, and deserve the very best care and support, regardless of where it is delivered.
Alongside our own helpline for veterans and their families, Combat Stress is most well-known for our Intensive Treatment Programmes for complex trauma-related mental health problems such as PTSD and depression, substance misuse and dependency. This six-week residential treatment programme is respected worldwide, and is widely regarded by veterans, their families, and other mental health practitioners as the best standard in care.
Residential care is not for everyone. With family and work commitments, some veterans will find that effective community services close to where they live will work better for them. It’s important veterans can access the right support, when and where they need it.
So over the last few years, we have invested in our own community services, bolstering our existing community teams with specialists such as occupational therapists and mental health nurses. Veterans who contact us can now receive initial treatment and support more quickly than at any other time in our history.
But whilst many veterans will benefit from these community services – and those now being provided by the NHS – it is essential that we also retain expert residential care services for those living with complex mental health problems, and who need intensive support.
Having cared for veterans since 1919, Combat Stress has been, and remains, the ideal provider of these essential treatments. We know such support in a residential setting, where a holistic team of caring professionals can provide round-the-clock care.
As we have done for nearly a century, Combat Stress will continue to provide our world-leading inpatient treatment and support service, which is now reliant on funding from our generous individual and corporate supporters. However, without the money we once received from the Government and NHS, and with no similar NHS service available, fewer veterans will be able access residential treatments.
Diversifying the support available to veterans and their families can only be a good thing. But the wholesale rejection by the NHS of residential mental health care will leave some veterans without the support they need, and diminish the UK’s position in the eyes of our military peers.
We implore those in power to reconsider, and commit once again to funding the proven and vital residential specialist mental health services veterans need and want.