The specialist Defence Rehabilitation Centre at Stanford Hall.
By Hannah Swarbrick, a senior solicitor in the military team at Bolt Burdon Kemp
The opening of the Defence and National Rehabilitation Centre (DNRC) at Stanford Hall, near Loughborough, last year is one of a number of recent initiatives by the Ministry of Defence (MOD) to try and improve the treatment which is available to members of the Armed Forces.
The DNRC has now taken over from Headley Court in Surrey as the leading treatment centre providing neurological and complex trauma care to the most seriously injured personnel and is intended to provide state-of-the-art rehabilitative facilities.
It also includes a dedicated mental health facility with provision for welfare services.
The rehabilitation of military personnel has come a long way in recent years and there is now a recognition that treatment has to address psychological as well as physical needs.
The military’s recent emphasis on mental health initiatives marks a turning point in the acceptance of mental health conditions, which in the past have been largely overlooked.
Within the last few weeks the new Defence Secretary, Penny Mordaunt, has announced the appointment of the first Armed Forces Mental Health and Wellbeing Champion, Warrant Officer Glen Haughton OBE.
His new role will focus on the mental health and wider wellbeing of the Armed Forces, raising awareness for the support available and actively promoting the benefits of positive mental health.
Funding has also been announced to support personnel who are going through the sometimes difficult transition into civilian life following medical discharge, with a view to providing better signposting for support once someone has left the military.
These policies are part of a raft of initiatives announced by the MOD as part of the overall Defence People Mental Health and Wellbeing Strategy launched in 2017.
All of this marks a shift from a previous culture in which someone who had been injured was considered to be disposable.
There is now a recognition that individuals who have served their country should not be abandoned and that more should be done to ensure that they are properly supported throughout their rehabilitation and recovery to enable them either to return to their military role or to make a successful transition to civilian life.
Unfortunately, I anticipate that it will take time to break down the stigma within the Armed Forces that any injury, and especially a mental health condition, is a sign of weakness.
Every effort must be made to promote the services that are available and to reinforce the message that seeking help is a sign of strength.
Hannah Swarbrick is a senior solicitor in the military claims team at Bolt Burdon Kemp, a law firm who regularly act for veterans on a number of issues. They also work with military charities to help settle individuals into civilian life.