Wales

Support scheme for veterans with post traumatic stress expands

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Image caption PTSD can arise from distressing events experienced during military combat

A support service for veterans suffering post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is to be be rolled out across Wales.

Change Step uses former service personnel to help others with mental health issues, loneliness, welfare or addiction problems.

It was started in 2012 by Llandudno-based drug and alcohol charity CAIS.

It will now be expanded across Wales after the Armed Forces Covenant (Libor) Fund gave £1m to the scheme.

It is thought around 4% of military veterans suffer some kind of mental health crisis, as a result of serving in a combat zone. In Wales, there were 300 referrals for help from the charity in just five months.

The project sees volunteers befriend former service personnel to help them address substance misuse problems or PTSD.

What is PTSD?

  • An anxiety disorder caused by very stressful, frightening or distressing events including military combat, violent personal attacks or serious road accidents
  • Can develop immediately after someone experiences a disturbing event or it can occur weeks, months or even years later
  • Is estimated to affect about one in every three people who have a traumatic experience
  • Someone with PTSD will often relive the traumatic event through nightmares and flashbacks, and may experience feelings of isolation, irritability and guilt
  • They may also have problems sleeping, such as insomnia, and find concentrating difficult
  • These symptoms are often severe and persistent enough to have a significant impact on the person's day-to-day life
  • Source: NHS Choices

Originally launched at Hightown Barracks, Wrexham, where the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers are based, the new national service will be delivered by members of the Drug and Alcohol Charities Wales consortium.

Clive Wolfendale, chief executive of CAIS, said he expected the number of referrals for help from the service to rise.

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Media captionVolunteer Sandy Shaw, a former Royal Military Police officer, explains what combat stress is like

He said: "Veterans accessing the service have given so much for their country, but quite often feel forgotten about and disconnected from society.

"We need to help and reach out to veterans to assist them to re-integrate into their local community and mainstream services."

Last week plans for a home for veterans who struggle to adapt to life when they leave the armed forces was turned down by Carmarthenshire planners.

Image caption Jason Samuels is helping other veterans get their lives back on track

Case Study

Jason Samuels, 43, from Wrexham, developed PTSD after serving with the Royal Army Medical Corps in the first Gulf War.

For years he struggled to get help and instead turned to alcohol and drugs until he found Change Step in 2013.

He says it helped him get his life back and now he helps others do the same.

"You're talking person-to-person with somebody like you who knows exactly how you feel and has been through the same experiences," said Mr Samuels.

"After a good few months I felt considerably better and before too long I went from being a client to becoming a peer mentor myself in Wrexham. Today I have over 20 clients of my own."

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