U.S. visit to help veterans

Tony Wright MD of About Turn that helps people when they leave the armed services.

Tony Wright MD of About Turn that helps people when they leave the armed services.

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A WAR veterans campaigner is set to travel to America in a bid to help tackle the traumas facing ex-service personnel.

Tony Wright, who helped set up the Forces for Good and the About Turn CIC support groups, including a branch in Sunderland, has been awarded funding from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust to help develop his projects.

Every year, the trust offers funding for overseas research projects which benefit the UK.

The 51-year-old ex-Royal Marine launched the groups, which aim to give veterans a platform to share their experiences, after suffering a shoulder injury during service.

Now he is hoping to learn from experts in the United States, as well as carry out research, to help support veterans in the North East who are struggling to settle back into civilian life.

“I’ve won a travelling bursary which will let me go to the States to see how they operate,” he said. “The Americans are about 10 or 15 years ahead of us when it comes to helping veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and mental health problems.

“It’s financed a lot better and it’s a co-ordinated approach.

“It’s accepted that in this country we are still trying to organise who should deal with it.

“Instead veterans become involved in the criminal justice system. You need to understand that 95 per cent of people who leave the armed forces settle back in fine, but there is just five per cent that do not.”

A survey commissioned by Mr Wright’s group, entitled Camouflaged But No Longer Concealed, highlighted issues with substance misuse, depression, alcoholism and homelessness among veterans.

There are also issues of social alienation among those leaving the army.

During his six-week trip to the States, Mr Wright will visit six projects to learn how they help.

“I was medically discharged from the Royal Marines following a shoulder injury,” said Mr Wright.  

“For a lot of people who have early discharge there’s no resettlement package and it’s even harder for them.

“What we do is totally unique.”

Mr Wright helps run groups in Sunderland, Newcastle and Gateshead.

For more information, visit www.pullupasandbag.com