Veterans wait four years to seek mental health help, new survey suggests

British military veterans who suffer the psychological wounds of war wait an average of four years to seek help, according to a survey done as part of a new anti-stigma campaign.

The study by veterans’ charity Help for Heroes also revealed 30 per cent suffering from the mental health impact of war have not sought any support at all.

It published the findings ahead of the launch of its Cut The Clock campaign to support veterans who face psychological problems. The campaign coincides with a new support programme by Veterans’ Gateway, a service funded by the Ministry of Defence, to help vulnerable ex-servicemen and women.

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Karen Mead, head of psychological wellbeing at Help for Heroes, said: “Veterans are not accessing mental health support when they need it and we believe this needs to change.

British military veterans who suffer the psychological wounds of war wait an average of four years to seek help, according to a survey done as part of a new anti-stigma campaign.

“Our campaign is asking the nation to call time on stigma and to let those who have served their country know it’s okay to ask for help.”

The charity’s campaign will be launched by England Rugby World Cup winner Matt Dawson today as buildings across London host a projected #StigmaClock to encourage donations and support. Mark Beckham, a veteran who served with the Royal Anglian Regiment in Kosovo in 1999, said he went 16 years without help for his mental health.

He said: “I wouldn’t want anyone else to suffer so long.

“In the military you’ve got your pride and you don’t want to be seen as a weak individual. That’s why a lot of the guys don’t seek help - they don’t want to be seen as a weak link in the chain.”

Andrew Taylor, a veteran who served in the Royal Army Medical Corps, said he waited four years to seek help after he was medically discharged in 2013.

“I lost my sense of identity, my career, the friendships I’d made and the excitement that my job had given me,” said Mr Taylor, who suffered serious back wounds in a suicide bomb blast in Afghanistan.

He said the decision to seek help put him “in a much better place” and urged other struggling veterans to “step forward”.

Help for Heroes’ survey of 189 veterans found many did not seek help due to believing civilian services would not understand or support them and a fear of being treated differently by friends and family. It was published as Veterans’ Gateway begins trialling an outreach service to phone ex-service personnel who have previously contacted its helpline.

The scheme, paid for with £108,000 funding from the MoD, is based on the US Marine Corps veterans service, which makes six proactive calls for every one it receives.

Mark Collins, assistant director of Veterans’ Gateway, said: “We will be monitoring the outcome to see how this trial impacts our users but hopefully it’ll mean those most vulnerable will be able to access help from Veterans’ Gateway supporting organisations, on their journey to getting the right help.”

Last year The Yorkshire Post reported the number of veterans and Armed Forces personnel seeking help for mental health problems has almost doubled over the past 10 years .

The warning was made in a report by MPs calling on the Ministry of Defence to do more to make sure former soldiers are not “falling through the gaps” in NHS care.

A new mental health service supporting military veterans was last year launched in Leeds to tackle a sharp rise in referrals.

The Veterans’ Mental Health Complex Treatment Service for the North of England offers therapies for armed forces veterans experiencing psychological trauma, and treatments including help with substance misuse, physical health, employment, accommodation, relationships and finances. It is being run by Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, with support from the Combat Stress charity, and will offer care for up to 130 veterans.

Mental health referrals to the charity have risen by nearly 150 per cent over the last decade.