08 November 2021

Mental Health Trust gave me second chance at career, says veteran

VCHA 1

An Armed Forces veteran, who had to be discharged from service because of his mental health, is using his experience to help and support other people with mental health conditions.

Research indicates that up to 50% of veterans can experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and depression after leaving active service as a result of trauma, exposure to combat and injury. Their mental health problems can often be made worse by the transition to civilian life, the breakdown of relationships and the loss of social support networks, with many veterans vulnerable to social exclusion and homelessness.

Simon, who served 10 years in the Royal Marines, was supported to recover by Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership (AWP) NHS Trust. He is now employed by the Trust as a Support, Time and Recovery Worker, using his lived experience to help other people with mental health conditions to connect with others and build self-esteem and confidence.

Simon said: "Recovering from a mental illness can be a long and challenging journey. There were times when I felt as if I would never feel good about myself again, so to be able to use my own experience of a mental health condition to support others who are in a similar situation gives me a real sense of pride and purpose. I am really pleased to have been given a second chance at a worthwhile and fulfilling career."  

In recognition of the opportunities, support and treatment it provides to veterans with mental health conditions, and its commitment to improving NHS care for veterans, reservists and serving members of the Armed Forces, AWP was recently named a Veteran Aware Trust by the Veterans Covenant Healthcare Alliance (VCHA).

To achieve the Veteran Aware status, the Trust has demonstrated it is committed to:

  • Ensuring that the armed forces community is treated equally, in line with the NHS's commitment to the Armed Forces Covenant;

  • Ensuring staff working in veterans services are highly trained to support veteran specific culture and needs; and

  • Making veterans, reservists and service families aware of appropriate charities or NHS services beneficial to them, such as mental health services, or support with financial and/or benefit claims.

As well as employing and supporting veterans, one of AWP's Non-Executive Directors is a commander in the Royal Air Force reserves.

The Trust has also signed the Armed Forces Covenant, acknowledging the value that veterans, like Simon, serving personnel, reservists and military families bring to their communities. As part of the covenant, the Trust has pledged to:

  • Promote itself as an armed forces-friendly organisation;

  • Support the employment of veterans;

  • Strive to support the employment of service spouses and partners;

  • Support AWP staff who choose to be members of the reserve forces;

  • Support local cadet units, either in the community or in local schools, where possible; and

  • Actively participate in Armed Forces Day.

Simon added: The signing of this covenant shows that the Trust is making a commitment to veterans and their families. Veterans and military personal have lots of transferable skills that would make them ideal employees for the Trust. They are diligent, hard working and committed and to know that there are opportunities for them once they leave the services is really positive."

Sarah Jones, Deputy Director of Nursing and Quality, at AWP, said: "We are delighted to be recognised as a Veteran Aware Trust. We know that veterans can experience very traumatic situations during their careers, which can lead to mental health difficulties.  However, with the right help and support they can recover and lead fulfilling lives with an alternative career. We consider ourselves very lucky to have Simon as part of our workforce and his contribution and dedication to helping others is admirable.  We have always and will continue to support any member of staff who is a reservist by accommodating their training and deployment wherever possible and we welcome applications from any veterans and their spouses and partners of as part of our recruitment process."

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