Combat Stress: a new challenge

Following the award of £2M in LIBOR funding to Combat Stress, Defence Online has an exclusive conversation with Sue Freeth, Chief Executive of the leading veterans’ mental health charity.

Combat Stress is the UK’s leading veterans’ mental health charity, working with ex-servicemen and women suffering from a range of mental health conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety. With over 6,000 veterans currently registered with the charity, it is a vital service in need of support.

Providing treatment and support services free of charge to veterans, the charity spends some £16M a year delivering a unique range of specialist treatment and support.

Sue said the charity was extremely grateful for the additional £2M LIBOR funding which will be used to support veterans with PTSD attending Combat Stress’ Intensive Treatment Programme: “This funding will help us to engage with ex-servicemen and women and help them access treatment as quickly as possible.

“These funds are much needed, as we’ve seen a 71% increase in referrals to Combat Stress over the past five years. Many more ex-servicemen and women with mental health problems are coming to us for help than ever before, and asking for help more quickly after leaving the services than in the past.”

She believes that the increase in referrals is due to a greater awareness of PTSD and mental health in general, with more ex-service personnel thinking about their mental health and, with support, willing to seek help earlier.

“This isn’t a community that traditionally finds seeking help easy. However, there is more recognition of the problem and therefore a bigger willingness to ask for help. Which means that those of us in this field need to be ready and able to provide help quickly and effectively to all those that ask for it.”

One of the reasons Sue believes the charity’s work is so successful for its users, is the work that goes in pre and post-treatment.

“The LIBOR money is for the assessment, preparation and follow up work which isn’t funded by our NHS England contract.

“We have developed an evidenced based treatment programme, which is about making sure there is real benefit for people on that pathway and that it has a real lasting effect. We have a very low dropout rate and a high engagement rate and the benefit of treatment is still evident some 12 months on.

“But the pre and post treatments are not funded and these are a crucial part of the treatment process, for veterans. These elements are funded through charitable donations, so for these to now have government funding is a great vote of confidence in the work of Combat Stress.

“At the minute the services we provide are very much dependent on voluntary contributions – some 60% of our income is voluntary donation, with 40% from NHS sources. We are working on optimising funding so we can guarantee our services well into the future.”

Public awareness of veterans mental health is very much part of the charity’s strategy going forward in order to secure continued public support.

One major awareness push has been through the 22 Push Up challenge. Originating in the US at the beginning of 2016, Combat Stress generated an effective social media campaign that gathered support in the UK over the summer. It has so far raised more than £300,000 for the charity. Combat Stress President General Sir Peter Wall is a passionate advocate of veterans’ mental health and helped the charity launch their social media campaign.

As well as working to raise awareness and funding, a crucial part of Combat Stress’ work has been research and publishing papers on this particularly complex sector of society. The charity is hoping to use this to educate people and encourage people to come forward, to show that there can be good outcomes to their story and there is a recovery pathway ahead.

Sue said: “I have been very impressed with the Charity since I joined in January, there is a massive capability here and we need to secure its funding for the future”.

For more information on the charity or to find help with mental health please visit:


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