FORCES for CHANGE, a Wales-wide 2017 campaign, will see armed and blue light veterans reaching out to fellow veterans who are experiencing mental health problems. Their goal: to support them to access the services they need to recover – and to hear their ideas about how those services can be improved.
“The aim of our campaign is to connect with our fellow veterans and their families across Wales who may be trying to cope in silence, and to signpost them to the veterans services and mental health services who can help,” said Rebekah Burns, who grew up on various military bases and later became a military wife, and has experienced PTSD.
“It’s about supporting our fellow veterans and their families to take the next steps to improve their mental health, and to get the support they deserve. And importantly, it’s about reducing the stigma around asking for help and accessing services.”
FORCES for CHANGE will have a national launch at the Norwegian Church, Cardiff Bay on 11th May. This will be followed by events covering the 22 counties of Wales throughout the summer where veterans and their families will be provided with information about what support is available – from both mental health and veterans’ organisations – and how they can access that support.
The veteran-led campaign is supported by Welsh mental health charity Hafal in partnership with Bipolar UK, Diverse Cymru, CAIS, Care after Combat, Veterans NHS Wales, Carers Wales, Change Step, The Royal British Legion, the National Centre for Mental Health and Hafal Crossroads.
Frank Kitt, a former police officer with experience of anxiety and depression, said: “A career in the armed and blue light services can be hugely rewarding as well as providing vital support for the security, safety, and health of all of us. But as in any organisation, some people will experience mental health problems. Sometimes these problems arise from the work; sometimes they will arise from other causes.
“FORCES for CHANGE will help our fellow veterans to overcome these problems by saying to them: it’s OK that you feel this way, and you are not alone – and there are many organisations and services who can help you. Our intention is to link veterans to existing support and to help those who provide that support to work together to improve what they offer.”
Royal British Legion Manager for Wales Anthony Metcalfe, who served for 12 years in the 1st Royal Tank Regiment, said: “We are proud to be supporting this campaign. While the majority of armed forces veterans transition well into civilian life, for some this can be problematic, and while the support services are in place, we need to ensure that we remove the stigma and barriers that prevent some from accessing the help that they need.
“At the end of the campaign we will report back to policy makers, politicians, health professionals and others on the key mental health issues facing veterans and make recommendations for developing and improving services across Wales. We want this campaign to have a long-lasting legacy so that veterans in the future feel able to ask for help when they need it and have better access to the right treatment and support services.”
For the latest updates on the campaign please visit forcesforchange.wales