by Phil Cunnington – Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Wokingham
It’s now a week since we remembered all those who have given their lives in service of our Country to protect our freedom and our right to self-determine.
Wokingham Remembrance Day Parade
I would like to bring to attention those who live among us having survived conflicts around the world, having served our Country selflessly, who have now returned to civilian life. Those who are the primary beneficiaries of the money collected by poppy sales and donations.
They stand proudly displaying their medals and regimental badges and are looked upon warmly and appreciatively by the gathering public. We know them as Military Veterans.
However, many of these men and women continue to be affected by common problems, such as anxiety, low mood, unhealthy drinking and the impact of traumatic memories. Yet it is quite common to hear of veterans who have never really spoken about their military experiences.
In the NHS, stoicism is well known to be both beneficial and problematic. Beneficial because people don’t run to NHS services at the slightest sniffle and can self-manage many illnesses and conditions; Problematic because in some circumstances it can mean the opportunity for early intervention is missed and recovery is more difficult to achieve from a worse starting position, or some can suffer unnecessarily for the sake of ‘not bothering the doctor’.
The physical disabilities suffered are often clear to see and the problems they cause are more readily accepted although the effect on mental wellbeing is not so easily understood.
Ex-servicemen and women are by their very nature a proud and resilient community, and so many do not seek or accept assistance until their condition has worsened over a period of many years. Often it is family and friends who see the signs of these problems and it is important to make it easy to find help.
The transition to ‘civvy street’, whilst often difficult, has seen most veterans settle comfortably into everyday life without a problem, or they have overcome any difficulties themselves or with the help and support of their family and friends. However, this isn’t always the case.
The end of military service can be incredible disabling. It’s not just the end of a job. It’s the loss of comradeship with those who would risk their life for each other mutually; the loss of understanding – you are no longer surrounded by people who share your memories and experiences; the loss of structure – control over your day to day life; the loss of support for you and your family, including housing; the gaining of time – time which needs to be filled.
Up and down the Country, the British Legion, SSAFA, Combat Stress and a host of other charitable organisations provide support and guidance for those leaving the Armed Forces whether because their term is finished or because of injury or illness. In truth, for decades these were the only support because government saw the last service pay-cheque as the end of their responsibility.
There has been some change with the introduction of the Armed Forces Covenant in 2011 and its subsequent adoption by some Local Authorities and Public Services. Yet, for many in government they see this covenant as a job finished and have put it to one side.
It is not finished. It is a job only just started and it must be continued.
UKIP are determined to build upon the Military Covenant and Mike Hookem MEP, UKIP Defence spokesperson, delivered a speech at the UKIP conference in September in which he announced the following policy measures:
- UKIP will guarantee those who have served in the Armed Forces for a minimum of 12 years a job in the police force, prison service or border force if they can’t find employment
- UKIP will change the points system for social housing to give priority to ex-service men and women and those returning from active service
- A Veterans Department will bring together all veterans services to ensure servicemen and women receive the after-service care they deserve
- Veterans are to receive a Veterans’ Service Card to ensure they are fast tracked for mental health care and services, if needed
- All entitlements will be extended to servicemen recruited from overseas
This is the policy approach I was yearning to hear and that confirms to me yet again I have joined and am working with a party that is for the people.
for info: Phil is General Manager of an NHS Mental Health Service in Hampshire
The South Central Veterans Service has been set up by the NHS (alongside other services across the Country) to help with mental health problems experienced by military veterans and, whilst having limited funding, at least offers some opportunity for dealing with these problems alongside other NHS mental health services.
25 Erleigh Road, Reading , RG1 5LR
Phone: (0118) 9296426
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