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Mental Health

New NHS Mental Health Service Launched For Veterans

The service has initially been launched in north London but NHS England hopes to expand the project to all regions in the coming months.

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An NHS trust in London has launched a new service for former Armed Forces personnel in need of urgent mental health care.

Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust has teamed up with forces charities to roll out the new High Intensity Service (HIS) and invited veterans to join its steering board to help assist those most in need.

The scheme works alongside the mainstream NHS and other services, including 24-hour crisis teams, to carry out an assessment, coordinate care and facilitate treatment. 

Speaking at the online launch on Wednesday was Anthony Muckell who joined the Royal Marines at 16.

He served in the First Gulf War but years later suffered a breakdown related to his service.

"My head just went completely wrong so I went to my GP and said to him I wasn't feeling well, I was feeling suicidal," he said.

"He [the GP] prescribed me some antidepressants and said 'you'll be all right in six weeks'.

"Within that six weeks... I drove my car into a brick wall to try and end my life."

Watch: Rosie Laydon reports on the new service.

After great suffering, Mr Muckell eventually found more effective treatment and is now directly involved with the NHS' efforts to improve services for veterans.

He said accompanying veterans to appointments, "because sometimes you need someone to hold your hand and drag you there", is an important part of the service.

HIS operational service manager, Rob Henderson, said: "I think there's just something about having a peer support worker in the High Intensity Service as being, possibly, the first person that you might speak to.

"If you're in a hospital environment, someone who may have been in the same situation that you were, coming alongside you, translating some of the NHS speak and helping you feel confident to get support."

The NHS is working in collaboration with forces charities - Walking With The Wounded, Stoll and The Ripple Pond - on the service.

NHS England hopes to expand the project to all regions in the coming months.

Mr Henderson added: "We think that need is high and that’s why this pathfinder project has been commissioned by NHS England because there are a lot of veterans out there struggling in silence."