Health help service launched for North East war veterans

Soldier from Burma Company in action
Soldier from Burma Company in action
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A PIONEERING mental health service has been launched for North East war veterans.

The Veterans’ Wellbeing Assessment and Liaison Service (VWALS) will provide a single point of access for ex-service men and women who need support for the first time.

Started to coincide with Armed Forces Day this weekend, it is available to anyone who has served in the Armed Forces, regular or reserve, for any length of time.

Symon Day, clinical psychologist, said: “It’s hoped that by providing a simple, accessible way for veterans to receive mental health support, VWALS will also encourage Wearside veterans to come forward sooner about mental health issues rather than suffering in silence.” One in four people can experience mental health problems in their lives, with veterans at an increased risk due to the difficulties that they sometimes face transferring from military to civilian life.

Despite this, those veterans who suffer from mental health problems can often delay seeking help after they have returned home from active service and many are not registered with a GP.

“The experiences people have during their military service, or in trying to adjust to civilian life after leaving the forces, can sometimes lead to anxiety, depression, stress or even alcohol and drug misuse,” said Mr Day.

“Veterans are also susceptible to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to the traumatic events which they can be exposed to during combat.

“However, for a veteran experiencing mental health problems it can sometimes be difficult to know which of the many local NHS services and veterans’ charities to contact for help and support - especially if they have only recently left the armed forces and are still adjusting to civilian life.

“VWALS provides a solution to this issue by giving veterans a single point of contact and directing them to the local services which are best placed to provide the support that they need.”

Factors such as housing, welfare and employment will be covered to ensure veterans receive support as part of their care, with the NHS working closely with the Royal British Legion (RBL).

Andrew Drake, manager of the RBL in the North, said: “It can be severely debilitating for those who experience mental health illnesses and for their families. The need to support and care for those who are vulnerable in the veteran community is vital.”

For more information, call 441 5974, lines are open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm, or email vwals@nhs.net anytime.

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WEATHER problems have forced organisers of this weekend’s Armed Forces event to change locations.

Thousands of people were expected to descend on Cliff Park today for the annual event, however Thursday’s torrential downpours have meant the weekend’s activities are being moved down the road to the the former Seaburn fairground site.

Young and old were coming together in appreciation of the work and sacrifice of Britain’s Army, Navy and Air Force.

Coinciding with other events across the country, Sunderland’s Armed Forces Day aims to be one of the biggest of its kind in England.

Tomorrow at 11.30am, a parade of Army, Royal Navy and RAF cadets, led by a military band, will march along the seafront.

At 1pm, there will be a minute’s applause in appreciation of the Armed Forces.

In the afternoon, there will be a mini-Olympics, in which local schools will compete in a variety of sports-day style events, such as the egg and spoon and three-legged races, before the weekend is rounded off with a tug of war between teams of serving and former members of each of the Armed Forces.